The latest jobs report from the Bureau of labor Statistics was released this morning. It has some good news in that the unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percent to 7.7 percent, and a net of 236,000 jobs were created (there were 246,000 jobs created in the private sector, while government shed 10,000).
Since 236,000 is above the rate of population growth, if it continues–and job growth has averaged 195,000 over the last three months–it would mean a slow, steady improvement. But, ironically, such an improvement might mean a short-term rise in unemployment as more people, encouraged by the number of new jobs, re-enter the labor market. The current unemployment rate is a mere one-tenth of a percent below where it was last September.
Break the figures down a little, however, and things aren’t quite so rosy. Unemployment among some subgroups, such as teenagers (25.1 percent), blacks (13.8 percent) and young adults 18-29, (12.5 percent), is much higher than the overall number. It’s still a dismal time to be graduating from school and entering the job market for the first time.
The long-term unemployed, which is to say those out of work for 27 weeks or longer, now number 4.8 million, fully 40.1 percent of all unemployed. Part-time workers who wish they could have full-time employment number 8 million.
Worse, the workforce participation rate, the percentage of the working-age population that is actually working, is only 63.5 percent. At the start of the recession it was 66 percent. In other words, millions of people have dropped out of the labor force. If they had not, the unemployment rate would be over 10 percent.
So while things are improving, they are a long way from good. The slowest recovery from recession since the Great Depression continues.