10.22.2013 News Releases

National Labor Market Goes Nowhere In Sept.

CHAPEL HILL, NC (October 22, 2013) – The national labor market added in September 148,000 more jobs than it lost. While the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons essentially held steady over the month, joblessness remained pervasive throughout the country. Last month, 11.3 million Americans were unemployed, while 7.9 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. Another 852,000 individuals (not seasonally adjusted) were so discouraged about their job prospects that they had stopped searching for work altogether.

“September marked the 36th-straight month of job growth recorded 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 year, the national economy netted an average of 185,000 jobs per month, a pace that, while positive, is insufficient to drive unemployment down to pre-recessionary levels. The pace of growth slowed sharply during the past three months, falling to an average monthly net gain of 114,000 jobs from an average of 116,000 jobs per month during the prior three-month period.”

In September, the nation’s employers added 148,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred overwhelmingly in the private sector (+126,000), while government employers added 22,000 more positions than they eliminated, due mainly to hiring by state governments. Furthermore, the payroll employment numbers for July and August underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 282,000 jobs over those two months, not the 273,000 positions previously reported.

Within the private sector, payroll levels rose the most in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+60,000, with 34.7 percent of the gains occurring in the retail trade subsector), followed by the professional and business services sector (+32,000, with 75.9 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector) and the construction sector (+20,000). Payroll levels fell the most in the leisure and hospitality services sector (-13,000, due primarily to cuts in the accommodation and food services subsector).

“Since last September, the American economy has gained 2.2 million more payroll positions that it has lost,” noted Quinterno. “The current average monthly rate of job growth—some 185,000 positions per month—is insufficient to close the nation’s sizable jobs gap anytime soon.”

Slack labor market conditions were evident in the September household survey. Last month, 11.3 million Americans (7.2 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. Both the unemployment rate and total number of unemployed persons essentially were unchanged from the prior month. In September, the share of the population participating in the labor force was unchanged at 63.2 percent, a rate lower than the one posted a year ago. On a positive note, more Americans were working in September compared to a year earlier, and fewer persons were unemployed. At the same time, the share of the working-age population with a job remained near the lowest figure recorded during the current business cycle.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.1 percent versus 6.2 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (12.9 percent) and Hispanic workers (9 percent) than among white ones (6.3 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 21.4 percent. Moreover, 6.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 10.1 percent. At the same time, 13.1 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained hard to find in September. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 13.6 percent. Not only were 11.3 million Americans unemployed, but 7.9 million individuals worked part-time jobs despite preferring full-time work. Another 852,000 individuals (not seasonally adjusted) were so discouraged about the labor market that they had stopped searching for work. Among unemployed workers, 36.9 percent had been jobless for at least six months, and the average spell of unemployment equaled 36.9 weeks. The leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 52 percent of unemployed persons. Another 28.3 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 10.9 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 8.8 percent of the total.

“The September employment report points to a labor market that is sputtering,” observed Quinterno. “Last month, job growth slowed and underemployment remained elevated. Despite the recent drop in the unemployment rate to the lowest level recorded since late 2008, joblessness and the associated hardships remain pervasive throughout the country.”

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