Real time jobs report data summary. Figures are based on the latest data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). All jobs numbers are for non-farm employment.
For local jobs report data, click here.
That’s the theme of this month’s jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There isn’t any alarmingly bad news, and there isn’t any over-the-top good news, but there is a fairly positive vibe. And it starts with the national unemployment rate.
Last month, the unemployment rate was 10.2%; this month, it’s only 8.4%. That means hundreds of thousands of Americans became employed, even amid the pandemic. It correlates with the nearly 1.4 million jobs gained in August. Speaking of jobs, here are the industries leading the way:
Retail trade +248,900 jobs
Leisure & hospitality +174,000 jobs
While it may seem surprising that these two industries set the tone in a socially-distanced world, when you dig a little deeper, it should actually be expected. Because many major cities are slowly opening restaurants and bars. Sporting events are proceeding with somewhat regular scheduling, albeit with less fans. And people are growing stir crazy, fighting some cognitive dissonance regarding COVID-19. A “let’s live our lives but do it responsibly” approach is increasingly common.
Remember, the BLS numbers often need context, even the seemingly simple numbers.
Dan North, senior economist at Euler Hermes North America, offers that context for the job numbers in NBC News, “We have had three huge months of job gains, but so far have regained less than half of the losses in March and April. Job gains so far have probably been the easy ones to get, where a business opened back up and brought back in its employees.”
Again, there is reason to be optimistic. People are going back to work, and there are undoubtedly people taking entirely new jobs. But let’s temper the optimism a slight bit, especially while the fluctuations in COVID’s numbers remain a major economic factor.
An often forgotten stat in this report is the labor force participation rate. How is this defined? It’s essentially the percentage of the population who is eligible to work that is actually working or looking for work. So if the labor force participation rate is 63% (like it was pre-COVID), that means an average of 6.3 people out of 10 eligible people are working or looking for work.
Today, the rate is hovering around 61%. While a 2% drop seems minimal, when you do the math, it’s major—to the tune of a few million workers. Traditionally, people elect not to work for various reasons from financial well-being/retirement, to attending school, to taking a break to raise children. Now, there are additional reasons: unprecedented unemployment assistance and safety concerns. If someone can have roughly the same income (via unemployment) that they had in their previous job, and stay in the safe confines of their own home, why not?
One month worth of BLS numbers might not be so impactful, but it’s important to keep up with the trends. Will unemployment continue to decline, shrinking talent pools and straining your recruiting efforts? Will a potential increase in the labor force participation rate bring people back to work and offset lower unemployment? And, most importantly, what exactly is occurring in your local market? Does it match or counter the national trends?
Like anything, time will tell. Stay tuned. And stay flexible.