Unemployment Rate Ticks Down to 7.3% But Job Creation Is a Hazy 162,000
FlaglerLive | September 6, 2013
The August unemployment report released this morning by the U.S. Department of Labor looks like summer’s television season: repeat, repeat, repeat. Job creation was an anemic 162,000. June and July job-creation figures were revised downward by a combined 74,000 jobs (for a total of 276,000 jobs over the two months, instead of 350,000).
But in a glimmer of better news, the unemployment rate clicked down a decimal point, to 7.3 percent, which happens to be be the lowest rate since December 2008, when it was also 7.3 percent and zooming up. Florida’s unemployment rate is at 7.1 percent.
Officially, 11.3 million Americans remain unemployed, but that figure includes neither discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work, or have run out their unemployment insurance, or part-time workers who can’t find full-time work, but need it. When those categories are included, the more accurate unemployment and under-employment rate stands at 13.7 percent. Nevertheless, that 13.7 percent rate is also the lowest rate since December 2008, when it was 13.6 percent, and it is considerably better than Florida’s 15.1 percent. The decline nationally was led by a reduction of 334,000 people among those working part-time involuntarily.
Florida law is especially harsh against the unemployed, limiting their monthly checks to among the lowest benefits in the nation, and ending them sooner than last year.
The civilian labor force participation rate edged down to 63.2 percent in August, from 63.4 percent the previous month, continuing a steep descent since 2008, when it stood above 66 percent. The fewer workers in the labor force, the less tax revenue flows into the national treasury, and the less economic output flows out of the economy as a whole. The August rate was the lowest level since 1978. It is in large part because more than 300,000 left the labor force that the unemployment rate fell–not because enough new jobs were created.
The employment-population ratio, at 58.6 percent, also declined by a decimal point, and remains well below the 63 percent pre-recession level.
In particular sectors, retail trade added 44,000 jobs (and 393,000 jobs over the past 12 months), with clothing stores leading the way. Health care added 33,000 jobs, with most of that in ambulatory care services. Professional and business services continued to add jobs (23,000).
Within leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and bars continued to trend up (21,000), totaling 354,000 new jobs in the past year. Wholesale trade added 8,000 jobs, and manufacturing, which had declined 10,000 jobs in July, added 19,000 jobs in August. The return of laid-off workers contributed to the increase in August. Over the past 12 months, auto manufacturers have added 34,000 jobs. And despite a good box-office summer, the motion picture and sound recording industry lost 22,000 jobs in August, following a gain of 8,000 in July.
Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, construction, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and government, showed little or no change in August.
The average workweek for all employees on private payrolls increased by 0.1 hour in August to 34.5 hours. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 40.8 hours, and overtime increased by 0.2 hour to 3.4 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees was unchanged at 33.6 hours. Average hourly earnings for all employees rose by 5 cents to $24.05. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 52 cents, or 2.2 percent.