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You are Here: Home > Blog > Unemployment Rate – January 2017

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Unemployment Rate – January 2017

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

The January unemployment rate ticked up a notch while net job growth surpassed economists’ expectations in the final weeks of President Obama’s second term.

According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 237,000 nonfarm job gains in January. Local, state and federal governments lost 10,000 jobs, resulting in 227,000 total net job gains. Economists had expected only 175,000 total net job gains, according to those surveyed by Bloomberg.

The unemployment rate edged up to 4.8 percent from 4.7 in December. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.2 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10.0 percent. The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 82 consecutive months since the Great Recession.

The BLS also revised job gains for November and December 2016, showing that the economy netted 39,000 fewer jobs than the BLS had previously estimated for the two months. Net job gains have averaged 183,000 per month over the past three months.

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The retail trade gained 46,000 jobs in January, for a total of 229,000 over the past year. Clothing and clothing accessories stores, electronics and appliance stores, and furniture and home furnishings stores added the bulk of the net job gains in January.

Construction gained 36,000 jobs after little change in December. Residential building employers and residential specialty trade contractors netted most of January’s job gains.

At 18,000, job growth continued in health care. Over the past year, the industry added 374,000 jobs. 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 showed a net gain of only 5,000 jobs in January, after few gains throughout 2016. (See Table B by the BLS for more job numbers listed by industry.)

Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (15.0 percent) followed by Blacks (7.7), Hispanics (5.9), adult women (4.4), adult men (4.4), Whites (4.3) and Asians (3.7, not seasonally adjusted). Only Asians saw their unemployment rate increase in January, up from 2.6 percent in December.

Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in January, the same as in December. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 7.7 percent rate, down from 7.9 percent in November and December. (See Table A-5 by the BLS for more information about the unemployment rate by education level.)

Unemployment Rate 2008 to 2017
Unemployment Rate Chart 2008 to 2017

In the past year, the unemployment rate has ranged from 4.6 to 5.0 percent. Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent or below to be normal and a sign of a healthy economy.

The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in January was 7.6 million, little changed from the month before.

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 January was 5.8 million, little changed from December but down from 6.0 million a year ago.

The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector in January was 34.4 hours, unchanged from December. Their average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents to $26.00, after a 6-cent increase in December. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent in a year. Average hourly earnings increased by 4 cents to $21.84 in January, 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 — at least not for them.

The number of marginally-attached workers in January was 1.8 million, up from 1.7 million in December. Among the marginally-attached, 532,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs. That was up from the 426,000 that the BLS initially reported for December. (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 1.9 million in January, up from 1.8 million in December. These workers accounted for 24.4 percent of the unemployed. 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 January 2017 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the February 2017 unemployment rate and job numbers on Friday, March 10. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.

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Except where otherwise noted, 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.

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