Unemployment Rate Falls to 16-Year Low, But Hiring Slows – By Eric Morath Updated June 2, 2017 6:18 p.m. ET

U.S. added 138,000 jobs in May as jobless rate falls to 4.3%

WSJ’s Paul Vigna outlines three key points from the May employment report, including reasons why hiring has slowed, and whether the report could derail an expected interest rate increase later this month. Photo: Getty Images

Analysis: 3 Things to Know About the May Jobs Report
WSJ’s Paul Vigna outlines three key points from the May employment report, including reasons why hiring has slowed, and whether the report could derail an expected interest rate increase later this month. Photo: Getty Images

WASHINGTON—The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 16 years in May, a fresh sign the slow and long-running U.S. economic expansion has entered a new stage that has left businesses struggling to find qualified workers.

Monthly Change in Nonfarm PayrollsTHE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: Labor DepartmentNote: Seasonally adjusted
.thousand2015’16’17050100150200250300350May 2017138,000

At 4.3%, the jobless rate is at point it hasn’t seen since May 2001, the Labor Department said Friday, and is below the trough it reached in the previous economic expansion, from 2001 to 2007.

Job creation, though, has cooled. Employers added a seasonally adjusted 138,000 jobs from the prior month. After a robust start to the year, the economy has added an average 121,000 jobs over the past three months. That is about two-thirds of the growth rate recorded last year.

The drop in unemployment suggests the labor market is at or near full employment—a point where most workers who are seeking a job can find one in short order and those who are unemployed are part of the natural churn. Federal Reserve officials see a higher jobless rate over the long run, between 4.7% and 5%. A jobless rate below this mark suggests pressures are building on employers to cope with the problem of finding qualified workers.

Big Retailers, Delivery Firms Face Struggle to Find Holiday Workers – By LAURA STEVENS and LORETTA CHAO Updated Sept. 15, 2015 8:21 p.m. ET

E-Commerce Boom, Low Unemployment Expected to Force Increases in Starting Pay

UPS said during its most recent earnings call that it would better control holiday costs this year.

UPS said during its most recent earnings call that it would better control holiday costs this year. Photo: REUTERS

For the past two years, Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp.and other big retailers have been flinging up warehouses and distribution centers across the country to get their online orders to customers faster.

In the coming holiday sales season, that building spree could come back to bite them—and the companies that deliver their packages.

With the nation’s unemployment rate at a seven-year low as holiday hiring begins to pick up, some retailers and logistics contractors are already struggling to find enough seasonal workers to keep their new facilities humming. Soon, United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. and smaller regional delivery firms will be facing the same problem.

Employment agencies for retailers and logistics companies say they are having trouble finding warehouse workers to stock early holiday inventory and employees to train for work in fulfillment centers, where holiday orders will be packed and shipped.

Few could have predicted the nation’s unemployment rate would fall to 5.1%, as it did last month, amid such red-hot growth in e-commerce. As a result, retailers and delivery companies expect to have to raise starting pay in some places.

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Yes, the media is biased but it’s not just about Democrats and Republicans – SEAN MCELWEE SATURDAY, JUN 6, 2015 03:30 AM PDT

There’s a reason the NYT’s Upshot ran more stories on reclining airplane seats than on payday lending

Yes, the media is biased but it's not just about Democrats and Republicans

The media is biased, but not in the way most commentators think. By focusing on whether the media is harder on Republicans or Democrats, we’ve missed a more important bias: toward things that matter to the rich. This bias, by linking the state of the economy to how the rich are performing, ends up benefiting Republican candidates.

Media are subject to a deep availability bias: They write about the things they know and things that interest them and the people who surround them. This ends up giving coverage an upper-class tinge. To take a few examples, consider the long battle over reclining airplane seats, which garnered three full Upshot stories (with Uber getting at least six). Meanwhile, Upshot has done scant, if any, coverage on payday lending, employer credit checks, abusive scheduling, the desperate state of American pensions and the rise in abusive “rent to own” selling. It sounds almost impossible, but Upshot has published more stories on airplane seating than predatory payday lending. This isn’t entirely a critique of the Upshot; it’s delivering content that its readers are interested in. An editor might be hard-pressed to devote large amounts of space, even online, to stories that affect very few of its readers. The result is often stark, however, like the New York Times’ cutting its race beat at a time of deep racial turmoil, while continuing to report on the housing whims of the rich (and the ideal way for them to reduce pesky arm fat).

More concretely, journalists will often use the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500 as shorthand for the state of the economy. This is misleading, however, since the richest 10 percent of Americans control 83 percent of financial assets. More than 50 percent of Americans don’t own any stock, and are therefore unaffected by the stock market.

Imagine an alternative universe in which the health of the economy was determined by wage growth for the middle class, rather than the stock portfolios of the wealthy. Further, reporters and wonks tend to rely on unemployment rate, while ignoring the fact that it excludes things like discouraged workers and the underemployed. In addition, the raw unemployment rate obscures deep class and racial divisions in unemployment. For instance, Jesse Myerson and Mychal Denzel Smith write that “teenage black high-school dropouts from poor families” face an unemployment rate of 95 percent. The rate of unemployment for black Americans is regularly double what it is for whites. As Reniqua Allen writes, African-American men are “stuck in a permanent recession.”


The unemployment rate didn’t fall — and that’s good news – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2015

Employers add 257,000 jobs as wages rise


The jobs report released today was full of good news — 257,000 new jobs added in January. 147,000 new jobs were added by revisions to December and November data. 91,000 new jobs were added by revisions to earlier data. Average hourly wages rose, and the previous month’s wage data was revised upward.

But perhaps the best news of all is something that sounds a little odd — the unemployment rate didn’t fall.

That’s because the years-long trend toward a falling labor force participation rate turned around. A bunch of new jobs were created, but the ratio of employed people to people looking for work didn’t fall since the denominator rose along with the numerator. The reason this is a big deal is that nobody was exactly sure what had driven the decline in participation. Here’s a chart where the White House’s top economists tried to puzzle it out:

What they came up with was that about half if it was underlying population aging, and then the rest was a mix of cyclical effects (i.e., a bad economy) and residual (i.e., they don’t know). The aging piece of this wasn’t going to change. If anything, it was only set to accelerate. So that decline in the size of the workforce could potentially have put a ceiling on future economic growth.

The big question then became, what would happen with the green and blue slices? As the economy improved, would the cyclical effects go away as people head back into the workforce or would they give up forever? And whatever caused the mysterious blue wedge, would it ever go into reverse?

A stable unemployment rate in the context of job growth and wage growth is a sign of good news about those green and blue wedges. It means that not only have we had some good economic growth news over the past nine months, but that growth is likely sustainable and there’s no need to panic about inflation or anything else. Employers are getting more interested in hiring people, and they’re not running out of people to hire.

These are the 10 cities where the job market improved the most in the last year – Updated by Danielle Kurtzleben on December 30, 2014, 5:20 p.m. ET

It looks like the job market finally got on track at the end of this year. The last jobs report showed the fastest job growth in nearly three years. Of course, that growth isn’t evenly spread — some areas of the country are rebounding fast while others are getting worse.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department released the latest figures for metro areas, giving a better picture of the geography of the labor market’s improvement.

Cities fast job markets

Clearly, Illinois dominates this list, claiming four the top five spots, led by Decatur, whose unemployment rate fell by 4.3 percentage points, to 7.9 percent. An improving economy of course plays into that — the Decatur Herald-Review reports that employment in a range of industries, like healthcare and transportation, has grown lately, and the latest Fed Beige Book shows that the Chicago Fed District has seen a boost in manufacturing and construction.

But it might not all be good news — as that Herald-Review news story points out, people have also been leaving the labor force, which can push the unemployment rate down even when the job market isn’t really improving. And some cities simply have a lot of room for improvement — unemployment in Yuma, Arizona, dropped by 4.2 percentage points, but is still at 23.1 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, these were the cities whose job markets worsened the most this year.

Metro area unemployment rates

As in the top chart, one state dominates this list: Louisiana, claiming the eight fastest-worsening unemployment rates among US metro areas. That may in part be because payroll growth has stalled in many industries, but it could also be that people are entering the labor force — an encouraging sign — faster than they can find jobs. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune,local economists think this may be happening — just the opposite of what may be going on in Decatur, where the rate is plummeting.

The unemployment rate is the number of number of people looking for a job divided by the total size of the labor force. This means that the unemployment rate often misses a lot of discouraged people who have stopped looking for work but would love a job if they could find one.

The flipside of the unemployment rate is the employment rate, the ratio of people with jobs to the total size of the labor force. It is rare to hear anything about the employment rate. Instead, a more commonly discussed statistic is the employment-population ratio-the ratio of people with jobs to all people, including children, retirees, homemakers and others who aren’t in the labor force.

The unemployment rate rose sharply in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and has been falling since 2010. Currently it stands at 5.9 percent.

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Americans think the unemployment rate is 32 percent – Updated by Danielle Kurtzleben on November 15, 2014, 11:00 a.m. ET

The latest jobs report showed the unemployment rate was at its lowest level in six years, 5.8 percent.

But Americans aren’t convinced that things are nearly that good. In a recent Ipsos-MORI poll, 1,001 Americans were asked, “Out of every 100 people of working age, how many do you think are unemployed and looking for work?” Their average response was 32. That’s almost 26 percentage points higher than the 6.1-percent jobless rate in August, when the poll was conducted.

Americans are way, way off here. But they aren’t alone. Here’s how other countries’ average estimated unemployment rates stack up to their actual unemployment rates:

To be fair, it’s possible that question wording matters here…though “out of work and looking for work” is the most broadly used definition of unemployment, people may be also considering their discouraged-worker friends who have given up the search. Still, even when you include discouraged and other marginally attached workers, even the broadest definition of unemployment in August was only 12 percent.

But moreover, unemployment is still a big problem, and those high guesses may reflect that. The job market is simply painful for many Americans right now, so to many people, it really might feel like the jobless rate is much higher.

This all doesn’t just matter because people are off. It matters because the degree to which people perceive problems guides how they make political decisions. (Not that Congress has been doing much about boosting jobs, as Ezra Klein wrote earlier this year.)

Update: This post was updated to provide more context and analysis about the jobless rate.


Unemployment down to 5.8 percent with 214,000 new jobs created – By Patrice Hill – The Washington Times – Friday, November 7, 2014

In this Sept. 3, 2014, file photo, people wait in line to sign up for unemployment in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

The nation’s unemployment rate continued its downward drift last month, landing at a six-year low of 5.8 percent, as businesses created another 214,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The new jobs came mostly in lower-wage industries like retail and restaurants, although some new jobs in health care, computer design, manufacturing and other higher-paying professions became open. Another 31,000 jobs also were created in August and September than previously reported by the department.

U.S. employers have now added at least 200,000 jobs a month for nine straight months, the longest such stretch of robust job-generation since 1995.


The job growth provided an early start to the Christmas shopping season, which economists expect to be strong this year amid rising consumer confidence and falling gasoline prices. Retailers plans to hire thousands of temporary workers to handle the increased traffic in stores and on websites.

“Today’s employment report is an indication that we are on firmer turf,” said Stephen E. Schatz, director at the National Retail Federation. “The labor market is progressing steadily. … Broad-based employment growth is key to self-sustaining and self-reinforcing economic growth.”

Reflecting in part the low-wage mix of jobs created, average hourly wages remained subdued, showing an increase of only 3 cents during the month and maintaining their yearly 2 percent rate of increase. The average workweek ticked up by a 10th of an hour to 34.6 hours, however, enabling workers to take home more pay during the month.

“There is nothing not to like in this payrolls report,” said Justin Wolfers, economics professor at the University of Michigan. “Healthy jobs growth — better in the household survey — nice revisions, no inflationary pressure. … There’s still no evidence of emerging wage pressures as unemployment falls.”

The survey of households, which complements the department’s business survey, showed a surge in job growth of 683,000, as well as other signs of more robust growth such as the share of adults participating in the U.S. labor force ticked up to 62.8 percent from record lows earlier this year.

“Companies continued to take on staff in impressive numbers,” said Chris Williamson, economist at Markit. “The economy is enjoying another period of strong growth in the fourth quarter.”

‘However, lackluster wage growth takes some of the shine off the improvement in the employment situation, and also acts as a bar to raising interest rates,” he said.

“A key and probably essential ingredient to any tightening of monetary policy is the return of wage growth. With average hourly wage growth stuck at just 2 percent per annum in October, a rate it has been more or less steady at over the past five years, policymakers will generally be in no rush to raise interest rates.”

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