Unemployment at 5.6 percent in December

Online Staff Report

Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 252,000 in December, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Jan. 9.

Job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 5.6 percent in December, and the number of unemployed people declined by 383,000 to 8.7 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed people were down by 1.1 percentage points and 1.7 million, respectively.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women (5 percent) decreased by 0.2 percentage point in December, while the rates for adult men (5.3 percent), teenagers (16.8 percent), whites (4.8 percent), blacks (10.4 percent), and Hispanics (6.5 percent) showed little change. The jobless rate for Asians, at 4.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted), changed little from a year earlier.

In December, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or longer) was essentially unchanged at 2.8 million and accounted for 31.9 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million.

The civilian labor force participation rate edged down by 0.2 percentage point to 62.7 percent in December. Since April, the participation rate has remained within a narrow range of 62.7 to 62.9 percent. In December, the employment-population ratio was 59.2 percent for the third consecutive month. However, the employment-population ratio is up by 0.6 percentage point over the year.

The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in December at 6.8 million. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In December, 2.3 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed 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 740,000 discouraged workers in December, down by 177,000 from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are people not looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.5 million people marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

In 2014, job growth averaged 246,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 194,000 in 2013. In December, employment increased in professional and business services, construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing.

Employment in professional and business services rose by 52,000 in December. Monthly job gains in the industry averaged 61,000 in 2014. In December, employment increased in administrative and waste services (plus 35,000), computer systems design and related services (plus 9,000), and architectural and engineering services (plus 5,000). Employment in accounting and bookkeeping services declined (minus 14,000), offsetting an increase of the same amount in November.

Construction added 48,000 jobs in December, well above the employment gains in recent months. Specialty trade contractors added jobs in December (plus 26,000), with the gain about equally split between residential and nonresidential contractors. Employment also increased in heavy and civil engineering construction (plus 12,000) and in nonresidential building (plus 10,000).

In December, employment in food services and drinking places increased by 44,000. The industry added an average of 30,000 jobs per month in 2014.

Health care added 34,000 jobs in December. Job gains occurred in ambulatory health care services (plus 16,000), nursing and residential care facilities (plus 11,000), and hospitals (plus 7,000). Employment growth in health care averaged 26,000 per month in 2014 and 17,000 per month in 2013.

In December, manufacturing employment increased by 17,000, with durable goods (plus 13,000) accounting for most of the gain. Manufacturing added an average of 16,000 jobs per month in 2014, compared with an average gain of 7,000 jobs per month in 2013.

Employment in wholesale trade and in financial activities continued to trend up in December.

Employment in retail trade changed little in December, following a large gain in November. Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, transportation and warehousing, information, and government, changed little in December.

The average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls was unchanged at 34.6 hours in December. The manufacturing workweek edged down by 0.1 hour to 41 hours, and factory overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.6 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private non-farm payrolls edged up by 0.1 hour to 33.9 hours.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls decreased by 5 cents to $24.57, following an increase of 6 cents in November. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 1.7 percent. In December, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees decreased by 6 cents to $20.68.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised from plus 243,000 to plus 261,000, and the change for November was revised from plus 321,000 to plus 353,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November were 50,000 higher than previously reported.

Posted Jan. 9, 2015

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