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4 Big Trends in the U.S. Job Market

by Peter Thomas Ricci

October was more of the same for the U.S. job market, but was it enough to sway Fed policy?

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The U.S. economy added 271,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate held firm at 5.0 percent, according to the newest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS’ full report, though, offered considerably more insight than those two stats allow, and below, we’ve spotlighted the four big labor trends currently at work:

1. More of the Same – In addition to overall unemployment staying the same, jobless rates were unchanged for all major worker groups: adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.5 percent), teenagers (15.9 percent), whites (4.4 percent), blacks (9.2 percent), Asians (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (6.3 percent). But while unemployment did not worsen, the plight of the long-term unemployed (Americans who have been out of a job for 27 weeks or more) did not change, with 2.1 million still belonging to those ranks.

2. The Fringes – Millions of Americans remain underemployed, meaning they want to find full-time work, but are unable to do so. According to the BLS, 5.8 million Americans are underemployed, while 1.9 million are “marginally attached” to the workforce (meaning they have looked for a job at some point in the last 12 months) and 665,000 are “discouraged,” meaning they have given up their job searches. When those three stats are combined, they total roughly 8.365 million Americans.

3. Disparate Industries – Some areas of the economy performed better than others in October. While construction employment rose by 31,000 in October, mining (which includes gas and exploration) lost 5,000 jobs, while professional/business services and healthcare saw 78,000 and 45,000 new jobs, respectively. Manufacturing, transportation, information and finance saw little or no job growth.

4. Wages, Wages, Wages – Even though the economy is adding new jobs at a rate of 230,000 each month, wages are now growing at the same rate. According to the BLS, nonfarm payrolls rose by just nine cents in October, or less than 1 percent. We recently reported that when inflation is considered, American workers are making less than they did in 1974, and such slow wage growth will do little to impact that trend.

Regardless, October’s 271,000 jobs was more than economists had predicted, and given how touchy the economy has been this fall, some are now expecting the Federal Reserve to finally raise interest rates before the end of the year.

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