Weak Jobs Report Shows 148,000 Jobs Created, Far Lower Than Expected. Unemployment Falls to 7.2%

News & Politics

After an 18-day delay caused by the partial government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday issued its report that the economy added a seasonally adjusted 148,000 new full-time and part-time jobs in September. The private sector added 126,000 and governments at all levels added 22,000 workers. The official unemployment rate, calculated by a separate survey, fell to 7.2 percent. The number of officially unemployed Americans is 11.3 million, but that count leaves out millions of discouraged workers and workers who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time work.

The consensus of experts queried in advance had put the expected gain in jobs at 180,000 for September. A report by Automated Data Processing released Oct. 2 estimated 166,000 private-sector jobs had been created in September. Unlike the BLS, ADP does not count public-sector jobs and it is notable for not meshing closely with the government report. Said Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital.

"Today's blistering jobs report has quickly reminded America that our economic problems are getting worse, despite talking point reassurances from Federal Reserve officials."

How valuable Tuesday's belated BLS report will be to Federal Reserve and the myriad businesses that depend on its statistics for their decision-making is unknown.

The next monthly report is scheduled to appear in just two weeks. Under normal circumstances, the BLS stops gathering information for its report around the 12th of the month being evaluated—Oct. 12 for the October jobs report, for example. But because of the shutdown, gathering information was delayed. This could skew the results of the October report as BLS analysts scramble to meet their next deadline.

The Economic Policy Institute points out a big hole in the BLS calculations:

In today’s labor market, the unemployment rate drastically understates the weakness of job opportunities. This is due to the existence of a large pool of “missing workers”—potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor actively seeking a job. In other words, these are people who would be either working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger. Because jobless workers are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work, these “missing workers” are not reflected in the unemployment rate.

By EPI's gauge, there were in August, 4.97 million "missing workers." If they were seeking work, the unemployment rate for that month would have been 10.1 percent, not the actually reported 7.3 percent.

Internally, the BLS calls the official unemployment rate U3. This is the so-called headlinenumber. The bureau also calculates a more complete measure called U6 that rarely makes the headlines. U6 covers a portion of those workers EPI notes have given up looking for a job but still want one. It also includes Americans who work part-time even though they want full-time jobs. The jargon calls these "part time for economic reasons." They constitute the so-called underemployed. In September, U6 fell to 13.6 percent. In August, U6 had falle 0.3 to 13.7 percent.


The seasonally adjusted 169,000 job gain the BLS reported for August was revised to 193,000. The July figures were revised from 104,000 to 89,000.

The number of long-term unemployed, those out of work for 27 weeks or more, was 4.1 million, accounting for 36.9 percent of the unemployed.

At the current average monthly gain in jobs—143,300 for the past three months—it would take until June 2022 to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who enter the labor force each month. That's because not only must the jobs lost be replaced, but also jobs must be found for the increase in the working-age population that has occurred over the past six years, a figure that grows by about 90,000-100,000 each month.

The employment-population ratio remained at 58.6 percent in September. The labor force participation rate remained at 63.2 percent, the lowest level in 35 years. A portion of the fall in labor force participation—about one-third, according to the Economic Policy Institute, higher according to other analysts—is due to an aging population that has begun to retire. But a portion of the fall is also a consequence of discouraged workers giving up looking for jobs because they've had no luck for so long in finding one and a shift  to lower percentages of Americans aged 16-24 in the workforce than has previously been the case.

You can calculate for yourself how fast the economy would return to the pre-recessionary employment level by using this interactive gadget. And you can calculate the number of jobs needed each month just to keep up with growth in the working-age population with thisgadget at the Atlanta Federal Reserve.
Here are the official (U3) seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in September for:

African Americans— 12.9 percent
Latinos— 9.0 percent
Asian Americans— percent (not seasonally adjusted)
Whites— 6.3 percent
American IndiansNot counted
Women—6.2 percent

Among other news in the September job report:

• Professional services: + 32,000
• Transportation and warehousing : + 23,400
• Leisure & hospitality:  -  13,000
• Health care: + 13,700
• Retail trade: + 20,800
• Construction: +20,000
• Manufacturing: + 2,000
• Average manufacturing hours remained the same at 40.8 hours.
• Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 3 cents from August's revised figure to $24.09.

Here's what the job growth numbers have looked like in September for the previous 10 years.

September 2003: + 105,000        
September 2004: + 155,000
September 2005: +   65,000
September 2006: + 159,000
September 2007: +   77,000
September 2008:  - 459,000
September 2009:  - 233,000
September 2010:  -   43,000
September 2011: + 225,000
September 2012: + 138,000
September 2013: + 148,000

The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of more than 410,000 business establishments called Current Employment Statistics, and one called the Current Population Survey, which questions 60,000 householders each month. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added. It is always calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis determined by a frequently tweaked formula.  The BLS report only provides a snapshot of what's happening at a single point in time.
It's important to understand that the jobs-created-last-month-numbers that it reports are not "real." Not because of a conspiracy, but because statisticians apply formulas to the raw data, estimate the number of jobs created by the "birth" and "death" of businesses, and use other filters to fine-tune the numbers. And, always good to remember, in the fine print, they tell us that the actual number of newly created jobs reported is actually plus or minus 100,000.

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