08.01.2014 News Releases, Policy Points

US Labor Market Cooled In July

CHAPEL HILL, NC (August 1, 2014) – In July, the national labor market added 209,000 more jobs than it lost due primarily to gains in the private sector. At the same time, the unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points to 6.2 percent. While employment increased and the labor force grew, the changes were modest. Overall labor market conditions in the United States consequently remain far from healthy.

“July was the 46th-straight month in which the United States experienced net job growth,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Over the year, the economy has netted an average of 214,000 jobs per month, a pace that remains inadequate to repair the damage inflicted on the national labor market in the wake of the last recession.”

In July, the nation’s employers added 209,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. Some 95 percent of the gain originated in the private sector (+198,000), while public employers added 11,000 more positions than they cut. Within the private sector, payroll levels increased the most in the professional and business services sector (+47,000, with 34.3 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector), followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+39,000, with 68.5 percent of the gain originating in the retail trade subsector) and the manufacturing sector (+28,000, with all of the increase originating in the manufacture of durable goods). Payroll levels in the other major industry groups either rose in July or essentially held steady.

Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for May and June underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 527,000 jobs over those two months, not the 512,000 positions previously reported. With those changes, the average pace of monthly job growth in the United States recorded over the past year rose to 214,000.

“The United States has experienced steady job growth for almost four years, but the pace of growth has been modest relative to the severity of the job losses caused by the last recession,” noted Quinterno. “While the country now has more payroll jobs than it did in December 2007, the current average monthly rate of job growth is insufficient to close the jobs gap caused by the recession—a gap now estimated at 6.6 million jobs—anytime soon.”

Data from the household survey offered mixed news about the health of the United States’ labor market. In July, the number of Americans who reported having jobs rose by 131,000 (+0.1 percent); put differently, more people reported having jobs in July than in June. At the same time, the overall size of the labor force rose by 329,000 persons (+0.2 percent) between June and July. Meanwhile, the share of working-age Americans participating in the labor force rose in July, while the share of working-age Americans with jobs held steady.

In July, 9.7 million Americans were unemployed (6.2 percent), while 7.5 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. Another 741,000 individuals (not seasonally adjusted) were so discouraged about their job prospects that they had stopped searching for work altogether. Those persons were part of a larger population of 2.2 million Americans who were marginally attached to the labor force.

Compared to a year ago, 2.1 million more Americans were working in July, and 1.7 million fewer persons were unemployed. At the same time, the share of the working-age population with a job (59 percent) remained at a depressed level, while the share of the population that was participating in the labor force fell to 62.9 percent from 63.4 percent.

Last month, the unemployment rate was identical for adult male and female workers (5.7 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (11.4 percent) and Hispanic workers (7.8 percent) than among white ones (5.3 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 20.2 percent.

Additionally, 6 percent of all veterans were unemployed in July, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 9.2 percent. At the same time, 12.1 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained comparatively hard to find in July. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 12.2 percent, down from the 13.9 percent rate logged a year ago. Among unemployed workers, 32.9 percent had been jobless for at least six months, as opposed to 37.2 percent a year earlier, and the average spell of unemployment equaled 32.4 weeks, down from 36.7 weeks in July 2013.

In July, the leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 50.3 percent of unemployed persons. Another 29.5 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 11.3 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 8.9 percent of the total.

“The July employment report offered a portrait of a national job market that has improved yet is far from healed,” observed Quinterno. “The magnitude of the problems caused by the last recession coupled with an excruciatingly slow recovery have obscured how unusual current conditions are and have created a distorted picture of what a healthy job market looks like.”

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