2014 ended as the best hiring year in fifteen years in the U.S., while the unemployment rate dropped to a six-year low.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 240,000 nonfarm job gains in December. Local, state and federal governments netted 12,000.
The total net job gains in December were 252,000. Job growth averaged 246,000 per month in 2014, compared to 194,000 in 2013. The unemployment rate dropped from 5.8 percent in November to 5.6 percent in December.
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 58 consecutive months since the Great Recession, the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in U.S. history. The unemployment rate has dropped 4.4 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10 percent in October 2009.
Job growth continued in the professional and business services industry, at 52,000. Administrative and waste services gained 35,000 of those, while computer systems design and related services gained 9,000. The industry as a whole netted an average of 61,000 jobs per month in 2014.
The food services and drinking places industry gained 44,000 jobs in December. Job growth in the industry averaged 30,000 per month in 2014.
At 34,000, health care again added jobs. The industry netted an average of 26,000 jobs per month in 2014. Much of the industry’s steady 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 the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as well.
Manufacturing, an industry that economists consider to be a gauge of labor-market health, netted 17,000 jobs in December. Construction, also a measure of labor-market health, netted 48,000 jobs in December, which was almost double its average monthly gain of 24,166 in 2014.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (16.8 percent) followed by blacks (10.4), Hispanics (6.5), adult men (5.3), adult women (5.0), whites (4.9) and Asians (4.2, not seasonally adjusted). Teenagers, adult women and Asians experienced a significant fall in their unemployment rates in December, likely at least partly due to temporary holiday hiring.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.9 percent unemployment rate in December, down from 3.2 in November. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 8.6 percent rate, down slightly from 8.5 in November.
At 5.6 percent, the December unemployment rate was the lowest its been since June 2008, when it was also 5.6 percent. Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5.0-5.5 percent to be normal and a sign of a healthy economy.
The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in December was 8.7 million, down from 9.1 million in November. The number of unemployed persons declined by 1.7 million in 2014.
The count of unemployed workers does not include those 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 in December was 6.8 million, down from 6.9 million in November.
The average workweek for both part-timers and full-timers in the private sector was 34.6 hours in December, and their average hourly earnings decreased by 5 cents to $24.57. (Average hourly earnings rose by 1.7 percent in 2014 for all private-sector employees.) Average earnings decreased by 6 cents to $20.68/hour for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.
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 simply are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in December was 2.3 million, up from 2.1 million in November. Among the marginally-attached, 740,000 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 up from the 698,000 that the BLS initially reported for November. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, was 2.8 million in December, the same as in November. These workers accounted for 31.9 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed workers declined by 1.1 million in 2014. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
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.
For more details about the December 2014 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the January 2015 unemployment rate and job numbers on February 6. To receive notification like the above 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.