Somewhat Good News on Unemployment and Employment
By David Henderson
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment and unemployment in September were released this morning. It’s not nearly as good news as in the last few months, of course, something you would expect as we get closer to full employment. But it’s good news nevertheless.
The overall unemployment rate fell yet again, this time from 8.4 to 7.9 percent. That reflects two facts. The first one, which is good, is that employment increased by 275,000 between August and September. The second fact, which is bad, is that 695,000 people left the labor force. So the main driver of the lower unemployment rate was people leaving the labor force rather than people getting jobs.
Beneath those aggregate data are two pieces of good sectoral news: sectors that were hit hardest earlier this year are recovering.
Here’s the BLS:
Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 318,000 in September, with almost two-thirds of the gain occurring in food services and drinking places (+200,000). Despite job growth totaling 3.8 million over the last 5 months, employment in food services and drinking places is down by 2.3 million since February. Amusements, gambling, and recreation (+69,000) and accommodation (+51,000) also added jobs in September.
Retail trade added 142,000 jobs over the month, with gains widespread in the industry.Clothing and clothing accessories stores (+40,000) accounted for about one-fourth of the over-the-month change in retail trade. Notable employment increases also occurred in general merchandise stores (+20,000), motor vehicle and parts dealers (+16,000), and health and personal care stores (+16,000). Employment in retail trade is 483,000 lower than in February.
You might think that the big drop in the unemployment rate for black people and African Americans, from 13.0 percent to 12.1 percent, is wholly good news. What the data show, though, is that this group is treading water. 17.528 million black people and African Americans were employed in August, and 17.537 million were employed in September, an increase of only 9,000 people.