Saturday, December 3, 2011

US Employment Data: Stronger November Report Shows Economy Struggling to Resist Global Weakness

The latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows stronger, but still moderate, job growth for November. The unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, its lowest since March 2009. On the whole, the report shows a U.S. economy struggling to resist being dragged down by even weaker economies in Europe and Japan, and by a still strong but slowing China.

The economy added 120,000 payroll jobs in November. At the same time, figures for the previous four months were revised upward by a total of 114,000. Service jobs, led by retail trade, accounted for all the gains. Producers of goods lost 6,000 jobs and government lost another 20,000, continuing a steady decline. Local governments shed the most jobs last month,

The unemployment rate, which dropped to 8.6 percent in November, is the ratio of unemployed persons to the labor force. The labor force, in turn, includes both employed and unemployed persons. The number of unemployed decreased by 594,000 in November, of which 279,000 found jobs and 315,000 withdrew from the labor force.

The BLS also pubishes 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 marginally attached workers. U-6 fell to to 15.6 percent in November. As with the official unemployment rate, that was the lowest level since March 2009.

The employment to population ratio ticked up to 58.5 percent, its fourth monthly increase after reaching an all-time low in July. The long-term downward trend in this ratio reflects several factors: Slow job growth, more discouraged workers, who do not look for jobs because they think none are available, more retired persons as the population ages. 

Follow this link to view a classroom-ready slideshow presentation of the latest labor market data.

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