U.S. labor snapshot: payrolls up, jobless rate down

The latest statistical snapshot offers a picture of improving labor conditions in the United States with job growth on the rise and joblessness at a five-year low.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payrolls grew an estimated 203,000 in November even as the unemployment rate retreated three-tenths of a point to 7 percent, the lowest level since November 2008.

The drop in the unemployment rate was attributed in part to the return to work of hundreds of thousands of employees following a partial federal government shutdown in October.

“With solid job growth in November — in addition to strong data on manufacturing activity and auto sales — it is clear that the recovery continues to gain traction,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers that confers with President Barack Obama.

Robert Luddy, chief executive officer of Captive Aire and co-founder of the Job Creators Network, said the latest numbers offer both good and bad news. “Economic recovery is a slow process, and even a diminutive drop in unemployment is good news. But the real story in today’s jobs report is the 6.2 million people who have walked out on the job market since 2009.”

That’s the result of a decrease in the labor participation rate to 63 percent of working age adults employed or seeking a job, Luddy said.

The BLS reported that the number of people counted among the long-term unemployed who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or more remained unchanged at 4.1 million. Another 7.7 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were reduced or they’re unable to find full-time jobs.

In addition to job growth in November, initial estimates for payroll gains in October and September were revised upward a 8,000 to a total of 375,000. Given the new numbers, payrolls have increased an average of 195,000 over the past year.

For November, employment gains were spread among a number of industry sectors. Professional and business services add a net 35,000 new jobs, while employment in transportation and warehousing increased 31,000.

Health care payrolls rose 28,000, manufacturers added 27,000 jobs, retail trade employment climbed 22,000 and the construction sector gained 17,000 positions. Federal government payrolls dropped 7,000 in November.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls ticked up a tenth of an hour to 34.5 hours. The manufacturing workweek edged up a tenth of an hour to 41 hours.

The average hourly earnings of employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 4 cents to $24.15. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 48 cents, or 2 percent.