Today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics held little encouragement for those hoping that the unemployment situation would improve before November’s presidential election. Only the unemployment rate for August was an improvement, dropping to 8.1 percent from July’s 8.3 percent. The remaining data was a bleak reminder of the weakness of the economy.
- The labor force, those capable of working, has shrunk by 518,000 Americans since June. It dropped 368,000 in August. Those Americans are no longer working or looking for work. This is the reason that the unemployment rate dropped from July to August.
- The number of unemployed in August was 12,544,000. That is a drop of 250,000 from last month.
- The number of employed Americans dropped by 119,000. The current number of employed is 142,101,000.
- The workforce participation rate, measuring how many of those capable of working actually are, dropped to 63.5 percent. It has not been that low since 1981. The record high rate was in 2000, at 67.3 percent.
- The ratio of those working to the entire population was 58.3 percent, down from July. This ratio was last this low in 1983.
- For those unemployed, the prospects are grim. Just over 5 million people have been unemployed for over 27 weeks. The average time that a worker has been unemployed was 39.2 weeks. The number of long term unemployed had never exceeded 3 million until February 2009. The average number of weeks unemployed had never exceeded 21 weeks until April 2009.
Two groups that the BLS tracks are not included in the labor force, and thus not included in the traditional measure of unemployment.
- The marginally attached are people who want to work but are not currently looking for work. That number has increased for the last six months and now stands at 2,561,000 Americans. This statistic entered record territory in January 2009, at 2,130,000 and has continued to be elevated ever since.
- Discouraged workers have given up looking for work. Since record keeping began for this statistic in 1994, the number of discouraged workers had never risen above 600,000 until November 2008. In August it stood at 844,000.
The BLS offers an alternative measure for the unemployment rate, U-6. It includes the traditional unemployed, the marginally attached and those working part-time who want full-time employment. That unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in August. U-6 had never exceeded 12 percent until January 2009 and has not dropped below 14.5 percent since that time.