Economy Watch: BLS Data Points to Strong Employment Market

With the number of part-time and long-term unemployed workers at low levels, the U.S. employment market is doing well—but it's not quite at full employment.

BLS unemployed want job 1216Besides reasonably good job growth for December, and a higher monthly spike in wages than in many years, Friday’s employment report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics included other data nuggets highlighting the state of the job market (and of the retail industry). For instance, according to the BLS, retailers hired seasonal workers at a lower pace during the 2016 holidays than in the last few years.

Perhaps retailers were a little worried about the sales season (which was decent, as it turned out), or about their longer-term prospects—such as Macy’s, which is closing a lot of its stores this year. There is also The Limited, which just last week closed all of its stores. In any case, retailers hired 673,000 net workers in October, November and December, down from just over 739,000 for the same period last year.

Also from the BLS report: The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons (that is, involuntary part-time workers) was 5.6 million, or essentially unchanged in December. Since a year ago, however, the total was down by 459,000, and in fact December saw the lowest number of people in that situation since before the financial crisis of 2008.

Finally, there are 1.83 million people who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks but who still want a job. That total was down from 1.86 million in November, and also at its lowest level since before the recession bottomed out. Both the part-time worker totals and the long-term unemployed totals point to a fairly strong U.S. employment market, though not quite full employment.