New BLS Report: Job Gains But Flattening Continues

The overall story from the new Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for September is that the labor market continued to gain jobs – 661,000 of them – but that the recovery continued to slow and, by some measures, became flat.

The gains of 661,000 payroll jobs in September compares with gains of nearly 1.8 million in July and almost 1.5 million in August. While more payroll jobs were created in most industries, state and local government jobs fell by about 180,000.

The unemployment rate declined from 8.4 to 7.9 percent, but only because about 700,000 people left the labor force and no longer look for work. A more accurate measure – the employment to population ratio – was essentially flat last month.

Though the number of workers on layoff is declining, the number that have permanently lost work is now up to 3.8 million. And those with long-term unemployment – defined by BLS as having been unemployed for over 6 months – is now 2.4 million and will rise considerably in the next few months (as many of those laid off in April and May will add to these numbers). These are the workers who will have the hardest time returning to jobs as the economy continues to recover.

The failure of Congress and the White House to agree on a new relief and stimulus package is contributing to the slowdown in the labor market recovery. State and local government spending is contracting, and this will exacerbate the downturn. And the $300 weekly bump-up in Unemployment Insurance payments will soon expire in many states. An agreement from Washington on a new relief package is long past due.

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