The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in five years in November 2013, while the economy gained a significant number of nonfarm jobs.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 to 7.0 percent in November. The private sector gained 196,000 jobs and local, state, and federal governments gained 7,000. The economy netted 203,000 nonfarm jobs in total.
Analysts had expected 185,000 net job gains and that the unemployment rate would drop only by 0.1 percent, according to The Washington Post. Net job gains in November turned out to be among the largest for the year, according to BLS preliminary statistics. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage points to it’s lowest level since November 2008.
The BLS also revised its job numbers for September and October, showing that the economy gained 8,000 more jobs than previously reported. After the revision, the economy netted 375,000 jobs over the two months. Although the BLS subtracted 4,000 jobs from its initial October number, the resulting 200,000 net gains also turned out to be among the largest for the year. October and November were beat only by February and August, in which the economy netted 332,000 and 238,000 jobs, respectively.
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 45 consecutive months, with total nonfarm employment (private sector, plus or minus government) showing net job gains in each of the last 38 of those months. The U.S. economy has netted an average of 195,000 nonfarm jobs per month over the past year, for a total of 2.3 million.
At 35,000, the most notable November net job gains were in the professional and business services industry. Within the industry, temporary help services (“temp workers”) netted almost half (16,400) of those job gains, likely at least partly due to temporary holiday hiring. The industry as a whole has netted an average of 55,000 jobs per month over the past year.
Next in line was the transportation and warehousing industry, with 31,000 job gains. Couriers and messengers, truck transportation, warehousing and storage, and air transportation had the most significant job gains within the industry.
Employment in the health care industry continued to trend upward in November, with a net gain of 28,000 jobs. The industry has netted an average of 19,000 jobs per month so far this year. Much of the industry’s consistent monthly job growth over the past few years — even throughout the Great Recession — is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and to provisions in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as well.
Employment in the retail trade also continued to expand in November, with 22,000 job gains. Within the industry, general merchandise, sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores all netted jobs, as did automobile dealers. The industry as a whole has averaged 31,000 monthly job gains over the past 12 months.
The construction industry netted 17,000 jobs in November while manufacturing netted 27,000. Both of these major industries are key to analysts in gauging the overall health of the labor market.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (20.8 percent) followed by blacks (12.5), Hispanics (8.7), adult men (6.7), adult women (6.2), whites (6.2) and Asians (5.3, not seasonally adjusted). All groups but Asians experienced slight declines in their unemployment rates. Asians experienced a slight increase of 0.1 percent.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 3.4 percent unemployment rate in November, down from 3.8 in October. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a 10.8 percent rate, down slightly from 10.9 in October.
The November 2013 unemployment rate of 7.0 percent was the lowest since 6.8 in November 2008. The unemployment rate has steadily held below 8.0 percent since September 2012, in a range of 7.0 to 7.9. Prior to September 2012, the unemployment rate ranged from 8.1 to 10.0 percent since February 2009. It was 7.8 and already skyrocketing toward the recessionary high of 10.0 when President Obama first took office in January 2009. (See the chart to your left.)
Prior to the most recent recession, economists considered the “normal” U.S. unemployment rate to be around 5 percent or between 4 and 6 percent.
The BLS counted 10.9 million workers as unemployed in November, down from 11.3 million in October. That count and the unemployment rate do not include workers who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours. The number of involuntarily part-timers was 7.7 million in November, down by 331,000 from October.
The average workweek for both part-timers and full-timers was 34.5 hours in November, up slightly from 34.4 hours in October. Average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents to $24.15. Average hourly earnings have risen by 48 cents (2.0 percent) over the past year.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in November was 2.1 million, down from 2.3 million in October. Among the marginally-attached, 762,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs — at least not for them. The number of discouraged workers was down from the 815,000 that the BLS initially reported in October. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the numeric figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, was 4.1 million in November, the same number as in September and October. These workers accounted for 37.3 percent of the unemployed. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
In January of this year, President Obama signed a law that stretches out eligibility for unemployment benefit extensions through 2013. The law does not, however, extend the 2011-2012 payroll tax cut through 2013.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA. To look for a new job, start at the Job Search page.
For more details about the November 2013 unemployment rate and related matters, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the December 2013 unemployment rate on January 10, 2014. To receive notification like this automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Certain figures in this unemployment rate report were rounded and/or seasonally adjusted by the BLS, and are subject to revision by same (based on additional data that was not initially available). The unemployment rate chart pictured above was provided by the BLS.