Another jobs report. Another mixed bag.
While the headlines have tended to focus on the net addition of 248,000 nonfarm payroll jobs and the decline of official unemployment from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent, the news about wages and labor-force participation remains discouraging.
“Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls, at $24.53, changed little in September (-1 cent),” reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.0 percent. In September, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees were unchanged at $20.67.” Just to offer some perspective: As of August, CPI-U inflation was running at a non-seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.7 percent.
Along with wage stagnation, we have seen the labor-force-participation rate (LFPR) fall from 65.7 percent when the Great Recession ended (in June 2009) to 62.7 percent in September. Last month’s LFPR was the lowest since February 1978, a time when female participation was significantly lower than it is now. How much lower? In February 1978, the LFPR among women was only 49.2 percent. Last month it was 56.7 percent. Over that same period, the LFPR among men dropped from 77.8 percent to 69.1 percent, with the rate among men aged 25 to 54 declining from 94.4 percent to 88 percent.
Meanwhile, among those who officially remain part of the labor force, the long-term unemployed still represent a larger share of America’s total unemployed (31.9 percent) than at any point between January 1948 (when the BLS data begin) and June 2009. Indeed, the long-term unemployment share continues to be well above its pre-2009 high of 26 percent, which came in June 1983 (following the harsh 1981–82 recession).