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Jan 08

U.S. unemployment rate remains steady, with “robust job creation”

unemploymentWASHINGTON – Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 292,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Employment gains occurred in several industries, led by professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining employment continued to decline.

Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons, at 7.9 million, was essentially unchanged in December, and the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent for the third month in a row. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.6 percentage point and 800,000, respectively.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for blacks declined to 8.3 percent in December, while the rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), whites (4.5 percent), Asians (4.0 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little or no change.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.1 million in December and accounted for 26.3 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has shown little movement since June, but was down by 687,000 over the year.

The civilian labor force participation rate, at 62.6 percent, was little changed in December and has shown little movement in recent months. In December, the employment-population ratio, at 59.5 percent, changed little.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 6.0 million in December but was down by 764,000 over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In December, 1.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 427,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 663,000 discouraged workers in December, little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.2 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the December 2015 Employment Situation report released today:

“2015 ended with still more robust job creation: 292,000 jobs, making December the second best month of the year and bringing total 2015 job growth to 2.7 million. The longest streak of private-sector job growth on record continues, now at 70 straight months with 14.1 million new jobs over that time. The unemployment rate was unchanged from November, remaining at 5.0 percent.

“We’ve made tremendous progress. Seven years ago, the U.S. economy was in free fall, hemorrhaging 2.3 million private-sector jobs in just the three months before President Obama took office. Millions of families lost their homes and retirement savings. Major financial institutions and the auto industry were on the brink of collapse.

“But today the worst economic crisis in generations is behind us. Despite unprecedented obstruction from Republicans in Congress, the nation is enjoying an historic recovery, due in large measure to the president’s steady hand and the resilience of our workers and businesses. Consider these remarkable facts:

  • Average monthly job growth in both 2014 and 2015 exceeded 200,000 – the first time we’ve had back-to-back years that strong since 1998-1999.
  • Long-term unemployment has dropped dramatically, with a 2015 decline of 687,000. In April 2010, 45.5 percent of the unemployed had been out of work 27 weeks or more; today, that number is just 26.3 percent.
  • The retail automotive industry is going gangbusters, having sold a record 17.5 million cars and trucks in 2015. That makes six years in a row of growth in auto sales, something that hasn’t happened since World War II.
  • In the first half of 2009, more than 600,000 laid-off workers were applying for unemployment insurance benefits each week. Today, UI claims have been at 300,000 or less for 43 consecutive weeks for the first time since December 1973.
  • When it comes to the unemployment rate, we’re ahead of schedule and outperforming expectations. As recently as early 2014, forecasters thought unemployment would remain above 5 percent for several years, at least until 2020. As it turned out, it was barely for another year and a half. The unemployment rate fell to 5.0 percent in October 2015 and has stayed there for the last three months.

“We know there is unfinished business. Wages are rising only modestly and too many families are struggling to get by no matter how hard they work. We will spend the remaining year of this administration doing everything possible to sustain this recovery and create shared prosperity. Through investments in training, apprenticeships and infrastructure; by fighting for a higher minimum wage, paid-leave policies and expanded overtime – we will build an even stronger economic foundation for future generations.”

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