Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Statement: October 5, 2012
For Immediate Release
About the September Jobs Report
Job growth was weak in September but the unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent.
- Private and government payrolls combined rose by 114,000 jobs in September. Private employers added 104,000 jobs, while government employment rose by 10,000 — a reversal of the pattern so far in this recovery in which government job losses have been a drag on job creation. Federal employment rose by 4,000 jobs and state government employment rose by 13,000, but local government employment fell by 7,000.
- This is the 31st straight month of private-sector job creation, with payrolls growing by 4.7 million jobs (a pace of 152,000 jobs a month) since February 2010; total nonfarm employment (private plus government jobs) has grown by 4.3 million jobs over the same period, or 137,000 a month. Total government jobs fell by 470,000 over this period, dominated by a loss of 336,000 local government jobs. Government employment in July and August was revised upward in today’s report.
- Despite the 31 months of private-sector job growth, there were still 4.5 million fewer jobs on nonfarm payrolls and 4.1 million fewer jobs on private payrolls in September than when the recession began in December 2007. Job growth averaged 146,000 jobs a month in the past three months — an improvement over the previous three but still not the 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month that would mark a robust jobs recovery.
- The unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 to 7.8 percent in September, and the number of unemployed Americans fell to 12.1 million. The unemployment rate was 7.0 percent for whites (2.6 percentage points higher than at the start of the recession), 13.4 percent for African Americans (4.4 percentage points higher than at the start of the recession), and 9.9 percent for Hispanics or Latinos (3.6 percentage points higher than at the start of the recession).
- The recession and lack of job opportunities drove many people out of the labor force, and we have yet to see a sustained return to labor force participation (people aged 16 and over working or actively looking for work) that would mark a strong jobs recovery. Today’s report, however, was encouraging on this front. The labor force grew by 418,000 in September; the number of people with a job rose by 873,000, and the number of unemployed workers fell by 456,000. (These numbers come from a different survey, which shows more month-to-month volatility than the payroll job growth numbers.)
- The labor force participation rate (the percentage of people aged 16 and over working or looking for work) edged up to 63.6 percent in September. Prior to recent months, labor force participation had not been this low since the early 1980s.
- The share of the population with a job, which plummeted in the recession from 62.7 percent in December 2007 to levels last seen in the mid-1980s and has remained below 60 percent since early 2009, rose to 58.7 percent in September.
- The Labor Department’s most comprehensive alternative unemployment rate measure — which includes people who want to work but are discouraged from looking (those marginally attached to the labor force) and people working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs — was 14.7 percent in September. That’s down from its all-time high of 17.2 percent in October 2009 in data that go back to 1994, but still 5.9 percentage points higher than at the start of the recession. By that measure, roughly 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed.
- As discussed, long-term unemployment remains a significant concern. Two-fifths (40.1 percent) of the 12.1 million people who are unemployed — 4.8 million people — have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. These long-term unemployed represent 3.1 percent of the labor force. Before this recession, the previous highs for these statistics over the past six decades were 26.0 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, in June 1983.