12.07.2012 News Releases, Policy Points

National Job Market Grew In November

CHAPEL HILL (December 7, 2012) – The national labor market added in November 146,000 more jobs than it lost. That payroll growth helped to reduce the national unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, which was the lowest rate (seasonally adjusted) recorded since December 2008, when the rate equaled 7.3 percent. Despite the improvements, job growth remained weak in November, and unemployment was elevated.

“November marked the 26th consecutive month of job growth in the United States,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the past three months, the national economy has netted an average of 138,667 jobs per month, a pace that, while positive, is insufficient to push unemployment down to pre-recessionary levels anytime soon. After almost 3.5 years of economic recovery, the national unemployment rate remains 2.7 percentage points above the December 2007 level of 5 percent.”

In November, the nation’s employers added 146,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+147,000), while government employers eliminated 1,000 more positions than they added. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for September and October underwent negative revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 270,000 jobs over those two months, rather than the 319,000 positions previously reported.

Within the private sector, payroll levels rose the most in the trade, transportation, and utilities  sector (+69,000, with 76.2 percent of the gain occurring in the retail trade subsector), followed by professional and business services (+43,000, with 54.2 percent of the growth originating in the administrative and waste services subsector, which includes temporary help services). The construction sector, meanwhile, shed 20,000 positions, followed by the manufacturing sector, which lost, on net, 7,000 positions, due mainly to payroll reductions by employers engaged in the manufacture of nondurable goods.

“The American economy has added jobs every month for more than two years and has netted 1.7 million positions so far in 2012,” noted Quinterno. “The current average monthly rate of job growth recorded in 2012—an average of 151,454 positions per month—nevertheless is insufficient to close quickly the large jobs gap facing the United States.”

Slack labor market conditions were evident in the November household survey. Last month, 12 million Americans (7.7 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. The unemployment rate was the lowest one posted since December 2008, when 7.3 percent of the labor force was unemployed. In November, the size of the labor force fell by 350,000 persons, and the share of the population participating in the labor force fell to 63.6 percent, a rate that was below the one recorded last November. The share of the adult population also remained at a depressed level in November (58.7 percent). Nevertheless, compared to a year ago, more Americans were working in November, and fewer persons were unemployed.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.2 percent versus 7 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (13.2 percent) and Hispanic workers (10 percent) than among White ones (6.8 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 23.5 percent. Moreover, 6.6 percent of all veterans were unemployed; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 10 percent. At the same time, 12.7 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained scarce in November. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 14.4 percent. Among unemployed workers, 40.1 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 40 weeks. The leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 53.6 percent of unemployed persons in November. Another 27.6 percent of unemployed persons were reentrants to the labor market, while 11.1 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 7.7 percent of the total.

“Although the unemployment rate in November dropped to a 47-month low, the American labor market remains in distress,” observed Quinterno. “The overall rate of job growth is subpar relative to the problems facing the national labor market, and there simply are not enough jobs for all the Americans who desire work.”

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