Three days after taking a drubbing in the midterm elections, President Barack Obama had some good news today as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its November Employment Situation Summary detailing employment activity for the month. The BLS is reporting that the private sector added 151,000 jobs in October, the first month of positive job growth since May. The number of unemployed persons in the nation was 14.8 million.
The overall unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, unchanged from the prior month. Still, gross disparities in unemployment exist between different groups. While white unemployment was 8.8 percent, Black unemployment was 15.7 percent and Hispanic unemployment was 12.6 percent. The gap between white unemployment and Black unemployment remains one of the constants in the labor market no matter the economic conditions. Looking closer at the data reveals further differences between the races based on gender. The unemployment rate for white men (20 years and older) was 8.9 percent compared to 16.3 percent for Black men. Among the adult working population, Black men have been the most affected by the economic downturn and historically the most disadvantaged. The unemployment rate for white women (20 years and older) was 7.3 percent, the lowest among all groups. In comparison, the rate for Black adult women was 12.7 percent.
The unemployment rate for Black teenagers (16 to 19 years old) was 48 percent. This is a particularly vexing problem for Black families as many teenagers are contributors to the household income and their wages help cover family essentials. Compounding the issue of Black teenager unemployment is the alarmingly high rate of high school dropouts within the group. The consequence of large numbers of high school dropouts among Black teenagers and the lack of jobs is creating added pressure in many Black neighborhoods as young adults are essentially idle and wind up in the criminal justice system.
One of the most daunting aspects of the current recession is the growth of the long-term unemployed, people who have been out of work 27 weeks or more. Last month 48.1 percent of the unemployed had been so for 27 weeks or more. The number of persons employed part-time out of economic necessity (hours had been cut or because they were unable to find a full-time job) decreased by 318,000 in October. The number of individuals marginally employed increased to 2.6 million last month, an approximate increase of 200,000 from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force but wanted and were available for work, and had searched for a job sometime in the past 12 months. However, they do not count as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four months prior to the BLS employment survey. There were 1.2 million discouraged workers among this group. They are persons who simply have abandoned their job search because they believe there are no jobs available for them.
Though the private sector added 151,000 jobs last month, the gains were spotty and isolated to a few sectors of the economy. Employment in temporary help services increased by 35,000 last month, a good sign because many employers first add temporary workers before expanding full-time employment. The health care sector continued to add jobs, gaining 24,000 last month and employment in retail trade rose by 28,000 in October. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector, specifically in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries, declined by 26,000 in October. There was also a slight decline in manufacturing jobs last month, down 7,000 and remaining flat since May. Government employment also shed jobs as local governments face budget crises and temporary employment related to the 2012 U.S. Census fell. There was little activity in other sectors such as construction, transportation and finance over the month of October.