Economy Watch: Employment Expansion, Underemployed

The number of jobs created in September rebounded. Meanwhile, also in September, 2.2 million people were “marginally attached” to the labor force, about the same as a year earlier.

The number of jobs created in September rebounded – 248,000 versus a 12-month average of 213,000 per month – and some sectors added jobs robustly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Professional and business services, for instance, added 81,000 jobs in September, compared with an average monthly gain of 56,000 over the last 12 months.

Employment in retail trade rose by 35,000 in September, a number of which reflecting the return of workers who had been off payrolls in August due to the Market Basket labor dispute.

Employment in healthcare increased by 23,000 in September, while construction added 16,000 jobs. Employment in information increased by 12,000 in September, with a gain of 5,000 in telecom. Since last the year, employment in information has shown little growth, so this was an unexpected uptick.

On the other hand, some business sectors didn’t budge in September, despite the overall gains. Manufacturing employment was more-or-less unchanged in September, as was it was in August, and wholesaletrade, transportation and warehousing, and government experienced little net change in employment totals for the month.

Number of Underemployed Still Elevated 

In September, 2.2 million people were “marginally attached” to the labor force, about the same as a year earlier, according to the BLS. That means persons who weren’t in the labor force, but who wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the last 12 months. They’re not counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) didn’t move in September, coming in at 3 million. They account for 31.9 percent of the total unemployed, and over the past 12 months, their number has declined by 1.2 million. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons — part-time workers who want full time jobs, but can’t find them – was 7.1 million in September, compared with 7.3 million in August.

The August headline U.S. unemployment rate in September was 5.9 percent, down a 0.2 percentage points from August, and below 6 percent for the first time since July 2008 (and a year ago, the headline rate was an even 7 percent). The BLS’s U-6 metric, which counts not only the officially unemployed, but those who have looked for work unsuccessfully in the last 12 months, along with part-time workers who want to be full time, came in at 11.3 percent in September, down from 12 percent the month before. A year ago, U-6 was 13.1 percent, but at the beginning of the Panic of 2008, it was 8.8 percent.

Wall Street rebounded on Friday at the report of strong jobs numbers, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 207.38 points, or 1.23 percent. The S&P 500 rose 1.11 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.03 percent.