Graham Kilmer

Unemployment at 7.9%, Job Gains Slowing

Slowing job gains a bad sign for the ongoing unemployment crisis.

By - Oct 2nd, 2020 04:58 pm
On March 19th, the downtown Milwaukee Punch Bowl Social laid off 91 employees. Photo by Jennifer Rick.

On March 19th, the downtown Milwaukee Punch Bowl Social laid off 91 employees. Photo by Jennifer Rick.

The national unemployment rate saw a small decline in September. It went down from 8.4% to 7.9%.

This is according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The report shows the country saw 661,000 jobs added in September. But the country still has 10.7 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic began.

And job gains are slowing. Each of the past three months saw fewer job gains than the month before. This means that the recovery from the unemployment crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is losing speed.

The Leisure and Hospitality industry had the biggest job gains in September, with two-thirds of the gains showing up in food service and drinking establishments. Still, that corner of the industry is down 2.3 million jobs since the pandemic began.

And gains this may be temporary. As winter weather comes, and establishments in northern parts of the country move service indoors, staff may be reduced and more bars and restaurants will likely close.

Last week, there were 837,000 initial unemployment claims across the country. Add to that the 650,120 claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and once again the country saw well over one million claims for unemployment assistance.

26.5 million people are still relying on some type of unemployment assistance as of Sept. 12, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Though, with some people collecting partial unemployment or receiving retroactive payments from delayed approval of unemployment claims, it is estimated that the actual number of unemployed is several million lower than this figure.

The BLS, on the other hand, estimates the number of unemployed people in the country to be 12.6 million. But it’s been noted that even before the pandemic this number was often an undercount of actual unemployment. So while the DOL figure is likely high, the BLS figure is likely too low,

The Labor Force Participation, which measures how many people are working or actively looking for work, declined again in September. The rate is a full 2 percentage points lower than it was in February.

Adult women and Asians are the two major worker groups that saw the best improvement in unemployment in September. And Adult men and whites were close behind. Meanwhile, unemployment rates for teenagers, Black people and Hispanics improved only slightly.

Black Americans continue to experience the worst unemployment rate at 12.1%, well above the national average. Hispanics unemployment rate is also well above the national average, at 10.3%

The number of people who work from home continues to be only about a quarter of the workforce. And in September, that number dropped from 24.3% to 22.7 %.

The bureau has had trouble with their classification system for their monthly survey since the pandemic began. And it has offered adjustments to their reports to account for misclassification. Though in recent months, this adjustment has grown smaller and smaller as improvements are made. In September, the unemployment rate may have been 0.4 percentage points higher than reported. But the BLS said this adjustment “probably overstates the size of the error.”

In Wisconsin, during the past 7 days there have been 16,296 new unemployment claims. During that time last year, there were 3,538.

Many economists have said since the beginning of the pandemic that the best way to ensure a swift, sustainable recovery is to clamp down hard with social restrictions, like the shelter in place order at the start of the pandemic. The recovery of the economy and the suppression of the virus walk hand in hand.

What we had instead, was a hasty reopening leading many to resume economic activity under conditions that were not entirely safe, leading to new flare ups of disease across the country, and slow, now stagnating, job gains as we head into the winter and flu season.

Read the BLS September Jobs Report here. Read the DOL Unemployment Insurance report here.

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Categories: Business, Economics

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