October Jobs Report: Major Gains But Some Troubling Trends

The October Jobs report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is most quite positive, though a few trends are disturbing.

The good news is clear: the unemployment rate fell from 7.9 to 6.9 percent; labor force participation recovered from its loss last month, growing by about 700,000; and the number of people reporting employment grew by a whopping 2.2 million.

Payroll growth was not as dramatic but also solid. Overall 638 thousand new jobs were created, just down from last month’s number (672 thousand). Job gains were widespread across sectors, especially in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, professional/business services and leisure/hospitality. (It’s not unusual for the household and payroll numbers in any given month to look different.)

But celebration would be premature. 15 million workers – nearly a tenth of the labor force – still report that they are either not working or working part-time due to the pandemic. The numbers with long-term unemployment (6 months or more) or permanent layoff both rose – to 3.6M and 3.7M respectively.

And government employment fell again, this time by 268,000. The federal government’s failure to provide aid to states and localities is clearly a drag on the recovery, while its failure to pass another relief/stimulus bill hurts the long-term unemployed and the broader recovery as well.

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