September employment

[I didn’t do a new radio show this week because WBAI is fundraising. More on this very soon. In the meanwhile, here’s a quick analysis of the September employment report that I did as a special intro to the KPFA version of the show, which was almost all a rerun.]

And now a special update on the September employment report, released Friday morning. The headline number was a loss of 95,000 jobs—though more than all of that was accounted for by the continuing attrition of temporary workers who were hired to help on the 2010 Census over the summer. The private sector gained 64,000 jobs—decent, but about a third what we’d be seeing in a normal economic recovery. State and local governments, though, shed an unusually large number of workers—with 2/3’s of that loss coming in education. Laying off teachers, what a country. Within the private sector, construction and manufacturing showed minor losses, and the service sector showed modest gains. Among the strongest gainers within the service sector: health care and bars and restaurants. It looks like we may be going back to the overeat, overdrink, and check into the hospital economic model of 2006, when those two sectors were leading the way upwards.

Over the last year, we’ve added 344,000 jobs, a number that would have been a pretty good month in the old days.

Average hourly earnings were unchanged for the month. Wage gains have been ebbing—a year ago, they were modest, but now they’re heading towards the microscopic.

Those figures came from a survey of employers, The simultaneous survey of households was somewhat more downbeat. Yes, at least the unemployment rate didn’t rise, but it’s still close to 10%. And within the unemployed, there was a hefty rise in the number of permanent job losers (as opposed to those on temporary layoff). The number working part time only because they couldn’t find full-time work—part-time for economic reasons, in the jargon—rose to a record level, when measured as a percentage of those employed. The broadest measure of unemployment, the so-called U-6 rate, which includes those unwilling part-timers along with those who’ve given up the job search as hopeless, rose to 17.1%, matching the year’s high and not far from a record. And almost 35% of last month’s unemployed dropped out of the labor force in September, an all-time high since these numbers began in 1990. Among the hardest-hit in the recession and weak recovery have been younger people; older workers, those over 45, have done far better than the rest over the last few years.

It’s clear we’re still deep in the long slog out of a financial crisis recession. And there are some serious long-term concerns amidst all this. some long-term forward-looking indicators are quite disturbing: with so many young people not finding work, and so many former workers languishing outside the labor force, the population’s skills are either remaining undeveloped or deteriorating. Combine that with cutbacks in education and you have some serious problems ahead.

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