October Job-Creation Numbers Show Slight Uptick

The October employment report won’t blow anyone out of the water, but showed a modest improvement that caused many to breathe a sigh of relief.  According to the Department of Labor, 171,000 jobs were added in October – the highest number since February.  Retailing (up 36,000); healthcare (up 31,000) and business services (up 51,000) showed the most significant gains.  August and September employment numbers were also revised upwards by 84,000 jobs.  The nation’s unemployment rate stood at 7.9 percent, a slight tick upwards from the 7.8 percent reported in September.

Possibly of greater significance is the fact that the workforce showed signs of growth, with the labor force participation rate rising to 63.8 percent.  More than 500,000 Americans started job hunting in October.  The current number includes 12.3 million people who have no jobs; 8.3 million who work part-time; and 2.4 million who have stopped looking for work.  Compare this with October, 2009 – at the height of the Great Recession — when the unemployment rate was 10 percent.  Prior to the recession, the unemployment rate averaged five percent or less. Even though it has declined from its peak, it is still approximately three percent less than what is considered to be full employment.

Writing in The New Yorker, John Cassidy says that “Over the past year, the total number of people employed has risen from 140.3 million to 143.4 million, according to the household survey.  After allowing for population growth, the number of people unemployed has fallen by a million, and the number working part-time or no longer actively looking for work has dropped by about half a million.  The number of people who have been out of work for more than six months – the hard-core unemployed – has fallen by more than 800,000, and it now stands at five million.”

Despite the upbeat news, Americans still are not seeing any improvement in their standard of living.  In October, the average hourly wage for workers in the non-farm sector fell one penny to $23.58.  Wages have risen a scant 1.6 percent in the last year, less than the inflation rate.

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