Ed Dolan's Econ Blog

October Job Growth Still Slow but Details Hold a Bit of Good News

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported only 80,000 new payroll jobs in October, still a very slow tempo. However, there was a bit of good news hidden in the revisions for earlier months. The August payroll job figure, originally reported as a shockingly bad zero gain, was revised upward to a more respectable 104,000. September’s job growth, in turn, was revised upward from 103,000 to 158,000. Some observers believe that upward revisions are typical of a job market that is beginning to turn the corner toward growth. Optimists can hope this month’s 80,000 will eventually be revised up, as well.

As has been the case all year, the service sector provided essentially all new jobs, 114,000. Goods producers lost 10,000 jobs, with a big loss in construction more than wiping out tiny gains in mining and manufacturing. The government sector continued to shrink at all levels. A total of 24,000 government jobs were lost in the month, with the biggest decline in the noneducational state category.

The unemployment rate edged downward slightly to 9.0 percent, a tiny decrease, but welcome after three months when the figure remained stuck at 9.1 percent. Part of the reason for the decrease was a smaller growth of the labor force than in earlier months.

Although there was only slight cheer in the headline unemployment rate, the broad unemployment rate, U-6, dropped more substantially, from 16.5 percent to 16.2 percent. 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. Fewer people in forced part-time work were the biggest factor behind the October decrease in U-6.

Finally, in another slight positive sign, the employment-population ratio edged up to 58.4 percent, its third consecutive monthly gain. That ratio remains only 0.3 percent above its all-time low reached in July. However, considering that long-term demographic forces are at work to push the ratio downward, any gain at all is welcome. (This earlier post discusses the significance of the employment-population ratio in depth.)

Follow this link to view or download a short slideshow with the latest employment charts and data

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