Nationwide unemployment rate drops slightly to 8.1 percent, monthly job gains slow in 2012

Online Staff Report

One day after President Barack Obama touted job creation in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Sept. 7 that employment rose by 96,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate edged down to 8.1 percent.

Since the beginning of this year, the nationwide unemployment rate has held in a narrow range of 8.1 to 8.3 percent. The number of unemployed people, at 12.5 million, was little changed in August.

Employment increased in food services and drinking places, in professional and technical services, and in health care.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.6 percent), adult women (7.3 percent), teen-agers (24.6 percent), whites (7.2 percent), blacks (14.1 percent) and Hispanics (10.2 percent) showed little or no change in August.

The jobless rate for Asians was 5.9 percent, little changed from a year earlier.

In August, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5 million. These individuals accounted for 40 percent of the unemployed.

Both the civilian labor force (154.6 million) and the labor force participation rate (63.5 percent) declined in August. The employment-population ratio, at 58.3 percent, was little changed.

The number of people employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 8 million in August. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In August, 2.6 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. 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 four weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 844,000 discouraged workers in August, a decline of 133,000 from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are people not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.7 million people marginally attached to the labor force in August had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 96,000 in August. Since the beginning of this year, employment growth has averaged 139,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.

Employment in food services and drinking places increased by 28,000 in August and by 298,000 over the past 12 months.

Employment in professional and technical services rose in August (plus 27,000). Job gains occurred in computer systems design and related services (plus 11,000) and management and technical consulting services (plus 9,000).

Health care employment rose by 17,000 in August. Ambulatory health care services and hospitals added 14,000 and 6,000 jobs, respectively. From June through August, job growth in health care averaged 15,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 28,000 in the prior 12 months.

Utilities employment increased in August (plus 9,000). The increase reflects the return of utility workers who were off payrolls in July because of a labor-management dispute.

Within financial activities, finance and insurance added 11,000 jobs in August. Employment in wholesale trade continued to trend up. Employment in temporary help services changed little over the month and has shown little movement, on net, since February.

Manufacturing employment edged down in August (minus 15,000). A decline in motor vehicles and parts (minus 8,000) partially offset a gain in July. Auto manufacturers laid off fewer workers for factory retooling than usual in July, and fewer workers than usual were recalled in August.

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, construction, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information and government, showed little change over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.4 hours in August. The manufacturing workweek declined by 0.2 hour to 40.5 hours, and factory overtime was unchanged at 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.7 hours.

In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged down by 1 cent to $23.52. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings rose by 1.7 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged down by 1 cent to $19.75.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from plus 64,000 to plus 45,000, and the change for July was revised from plus 163,000 to plus 141,000.

Rockford’s unemployment rate, 11.8 percent, was the highest of the state’s metro areas in July. August unemployment rates for the state’s metro areas will be released Thursday, Sept. 27.

The state unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in July. The state’s August unemployment rate will be announced Thursday, Sept. 20.

Posted Sept. 7, 2012

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