Private payroll job growth for August was zero, the worst showing since since September 2010. Adding to the gloom, the job growth numbers for May and June were revised downward by a total of 52,000 jobs. Private nonfarm jobs increased by a slim 17,000 but that gain was offset by a loss of 17,000 government jobs.
The labor force, which includes both employed and unemployed persons, grew by 366,000. Of these 331,000 found jobs and 35,000 were added to the officially unemployed as soon as they started looking for work. The unemployment rate, which is the ratio of unemployed persons to the labor force, remained unchanged at 9.1 percent.
The unemployment rate is based on a survey of households. It uses a different methodology than the payroll job report, which is based on a survey of employers. Among other things, the household survey includes farm workers and self-employed persons. It is not unusual for the two surveys to point in different directions in any given month, as was the case in August.
The government also calculates a broader measure of unemployment called U-6. The numerator of U-6 includes unemployed persons, marginally attached persons who would like to work but are not looking because they think there are no jobs, and part-time workers who would prefer full-time work but can’t find it. The denominator includes the labor force plus the marginally attached. A shorter average work week led to an increase in involuntary part-time workers and caused U-6 to rise in August.
The employment to population ratio ticked up to 58.2 percent, just above the all-time low reached in July. The long decline in the ratio reflects several factors, including slow job growth; more discouraged workers, who do not look for jobs because they think none are available; and more retired persons as the population ages. For a full discussion of the trend in the employment to population ration, see this earlier post.
Follow this link to view or download a set of classroom-ready slides with graphical presentation of the latest unemployment data.