After dismal summer employment numbers, the US added a robust 248,000 jobs to the economy in September, but the unemployment crisis continues as two other key measures are still unnervingly high: long-term unemployment and number of people in jobs they don’t want.
The report appears to show significant improvement in the jobs outlook in September. There are 9.3 million unemployed people in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly report. That is a striking decrease of 1.9 million people compared to January.
The number of long-term unemployed – people without jobs for 27 weeks or more – was three million people, down 1.2 million over the past year.
The unemployment rate in September also fell to 5.9% – below 6% for the first time since July 2008.
Even within the optimistic numbers, there are reasons to be cautious. The trends show Americans do not have the kinds of jobs they want.
For instance, there were 7.1 million people who were working part-time because their hours had been cut back, or because they were unable to find a full-time job. As pundits have noted, that number of frustrated workers is roughly equivalent to the population of the entire state of Washington.
Over the past year, there has also been no change in the number of people who have dropped out of the labor force even though they were looking and available for work. There are still 2.2 million Americans fitting that description.
In addition, part of the reason for its fall in the unemployment rate is that more people are getting discouraged in their job searches and dropping out of the labor force.
The labor force participation rate, which measures how many Americans are working, stayed relatively stagnant at 62.7%, the lowest since 1978.
Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen has set up alarms that the jobs numbers don’t represent the full human scale of the nation’s crisis. In March, she talked of “the real people behind the statistics, struggling to get by and eager for the opportunity to build better lives.”
Although the number of jobs added far exceeded economists’ expectations, “a couple of factors suggest a degree of caution is appropriate,” wrote Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
The reason: Revisions are a key part of the jobs numbers. July and August, which were mostly dismal, turned out to have 69,000 more jobs than the BLS knew at first. On average, the September unemployment estimates are rocky and often revised sharply after the economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics crunch the numbers a second time. There is a median difference of about 44,000 jobs between the first estimate and the second estimate in September, Shepherdson wrote.
This article was written by Heidi Moore, for theguardian.com on Friday 3rd October 2014 14.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010