Jobless Rate Drops to 7.2 Percent in September

WASHINGTON —The U.S. unemployment rate dropped 0.1% from August to September, to 7.2%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.  A separate BLS survey showed businesses claimed to create a net of 148,000 new jobs last month.

The partial federal shutdown/lockout sent all of the BLS staff home in the first two weeks of October and delayed release of the results.  BLS gathered the September data before the lockout.  Some 800,000 federal workers were idled when Congress did not pass a money bill to keep agencies open by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

It refused to pass the money bill for two weeks until leaders overcame House Republicans’ adamant insistence on linking all federal spending to killing the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP insultingly calls “Obamacare.”

Without the lockout, the federal government employed 2.13 million workers in September, 7,300 fewer than in August, not counting the Postal Service.  Government employment rose by 22,000 overall, all due to state and local schools.  They added 29,300 jobs combined as the school year began.

Some 11.255 million people were jobless in September, 61,000 fewer than in August.  But workforce participation again grew slowly and pro-worker economists Dean Baker and Elise Gould cited that.

“This continues the pattern we have seen throughout the recovery as the unemployment rate falls mainly because workers leave the labor market,” Baker, of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, said.  “The unemployment rate is now down by 2.8 percentage points from its 10% peak in October 2009.  However, the employment rate is up just 0.4 percentage points from its low point in June 2011.”

“This report demonstrates once again we are far from a full recovery,” said Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.  “September jobs growth was slower than the previous 12-month average of 185,000, making barely a nick in our 8.2 million jobs gap.”

Some 4.15 million of the jobless (36.9%) have been out of work at least six months, meaning that in many cases they’ve exhausted their first level of jobless benefits.  That’s down 1% from the month before.  And almost one of every seven (13.6%) of all workers in September were unemployed, underemployed or had gotten so discouraged they stopped seeking work.  That’s down from 13.7% in August.

Factory owners said they added 2,000 jobs in September, to 11.963 million.  Gains in fabricated metal products (+6,300) and machinery (+4,900) offset losses elsewhere.  That left 1.093 million (6.9%) of factory workers jobless.

After six months with little or no gains, construction companies finally added 20,000 jobs from August to September, to 5.83 million.  Half the gains were in specialty trade contractors.  But that still left 697,000 (8.5%) jobless construction workers.  Construction union leaders say the federal data understate joblessness in their sector.

Service firms claimed to add a net of 100,000 jobs from August to September, to 95.74 million, but most were in low-paying occupations.  Leading job adders there were retail trade (+20,800), temps (+20,200) and health care (+13,700).  The one high-paying exception was in mass transit and ground transportation.  Firms and transit agencies said they added 17,900 jobs, to 465,000.

-PAI