August Jobs Numbers: Some Good, Some Not

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has just released its August employment and payroll jobs numbers.

Here is the good news: the unemployment rate declined from 10.2 to 8.4 percent, and the number of payroll jobs grew by 1.4 million. Unemployment declined for most demographic groups of workers, and job growth occurred in a wide range of industries.

But several disturbing facts can be seen in these numbers as well. 18.5 million more Americans are either still not working or working part-time involuntarily compared to February. Over a third of those on layoff are now permanently laid-off – a group that will likely suffer reduced employment and earnings for years to come. Over 60 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for 15 or more weeks, which we consider the beginning of long-term unemployment – another category of workers that has increasing difficulty finding new jobs.

Since February, unemployment has risen just 3.4 percentage points among college grads but 6.9 percentage points among high school dropouts. It has risen 4.2 percentage points for whites, 7.2 points for blacks, and 6. 1 points for Hispanics.

And payroll job growth has been flattening over the past 3 months: it was 4.8 million in June, 1.7 M in July, and 1.4 M in August.

As the pandemic continues to rage in many states, our job market recovery remains precarious. We need more ongoing relief for the unemployed and more support for the economy going forward.

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