12.05.2014 News Releases, Policy Points

US Labor Market Nets Jobs In November

CHAPEL HILL, NC (December 5, 2014) – In November, the national labor market added 321,000 more jobs than it lost due primarily to gains in the private sector. Also in November, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. While numerous labor market conditions have improved over the past year, joblessness remains a problem in the United States.

“November was the 50th-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 netted an average of 228,000 jobs per month, a pace that reduced—but did not fully repair—the damage inflicted on the national labor market during the last recession.”

In November, the nation’s employers added 321,000 more payroll jobs than they cut. Some 98 percent of the gain originated in the private sector (+314,000), while public employers added 7,000 more positions than they cut. Within the private sector, payroll levels increased the most in the professional and business services sector (+86,000, with 48.5 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste services subsector), followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+71,000, with 70.7 percent of the gain originating in the retail trade subsector) and the education and health services sector (+38,000, with 76.1 percent of the gain originating in the health care subsector.

Payroll levels in all other major industry groups either rose in November or were unchanged from the October levels.

Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for September and October underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy netted 514,000 jobs over those two months, not the 470,000 positions previously reported. With those changes, the average pace of monthly job growth in the United States recorded over the past year rose to 228,000.

“The United States has experienced steady job growth for over four years, but the pace of growth has been modest relative to the country’s needs,” noted Quinterno. “While the United States 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 a little under 6 million jobs—anytime soon.”

Data from the household survey offered mixed news about the health of the United States’ labor market. In November, the number of Americans who were employed was essentially no different than it was in October. At the same time, the overall size of the labor force rose by 119,000 persons (+0.1 percent) between October and November. Meanwhile, the share of working-age Americans participating in the labor force held steady in November, as did the share of working-age Americans with a job.

In November, 9.1 million Americans were unemployed (5.8 percent), while 6.9 million individuals worked part time despite preferring full-time positions. Another 698,000 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 2.1 million Americans who were marginally attached to the labor force.

Compared to a year ago, 2.8 million more Americans were working in November, and 1.7 million fewer persons were unemployed. At the same time, the share of the working-age population with a job (59.2 percent) remained at a depressed level, while the share of the population that was participating in the labor force fell to 62.8 percent from 63 percent.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher for adult male workers than adult female workers (5.4 percent versus 5.3 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (11.1 percent) and Hispanic workers (6.6 percent) than among white ones (4.9 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 17.7 percent.

Additionally, 4.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed in November, and the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 5.7 percent. At the same time, 10.8 percent of Americans with disabilities were jobless and seeking work (not seasonally adjusted).

Jobs remained comparatively hard to find in November. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 11.4 percent, down from the 13.1 percent rate logged a year ago. Among unemployed workers, 30.7 percent had been jobless for at least six months, as opposed to 37.4 percent a year earlier. And the average spell of unemployment equaled 33 weeks, down from 37.1 weeks in November 2013.

In November, the leading cause of unemployment remained a job loss or the completion of a temporary job, which was the reason cited by 49 percent of unemployed persons. Another 30.3 percent of unemployed persons were re-entrants to the labor market, while 11.6 percent were new entrants. Voluntary job leavers accounted for the remaining 9.1 percent of the total.

“The November employment report offered a portrait of a national job market that is improving yet remains far from healed,” observed Quinterno. “Weak growth, in turn, is preventing American workers from experiencing improvements in their wages and living standards despite the fact that they have become more economically productive.”

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