Unemployment Ends 2013 at 6.7%, Down from 7.9% at end of 2012

            WASHINGTON —U.S. unemployment ended 2013 with at 6.7% in December, down from 7.9% from the end of 2012 and 0.3% from November.  The number of jobless declined by 490,000 in one month, to 10.35 million at the end of 2013.  There were 12.27 million unemployed at the end of 2012.
            Private businesses claimed to create 74,000 new jobs in December, bringing their cumulative total for the year to 2.21 million, compared to 1.8 million they claimed to create in each of the preceding two years, a separate survey showed.
            But the jobless rate fell in December not because of new jobs but because 525,000 people dropped out of the workforce last month.
            The Great Recession, also called the Bush Crash, doubled unemployment from around 5% to – after he left office – 10% in late 2010.  It has gradually declined ever since, due to recovery measures Democratic President Barack Obama pushed through the then-Democratic-run 111thCongress.  Most of those measures have ended.
            “The unemployment rate has finally dipped below 7%, more than four and a half years since the recession supposedly ended,” said Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s deputy chief of staff and longtime top economic analyst.
            “But that fall was driven mostly by people dropping out of the labor force, not by healthy job creation.  Job growth at only 74,000 net new jobs last month is nowhere near robust enough to get the labor market back on track for healthy growth and full employment.
            “It is more critical than ever for Congress to quit dawdling and pass an extension of unemployment insurance immediately.  It is a disgrace that 1.3 million Americans lost benefits at the end of December while too many Republicans in Congress remain fixated on irrelevant and counter-productive austerity measures,” she added.
            A high proportion of the jobless, 37.7%, have been out of work more than six months.  Those long-term unemployed have exhausted their state jobless benefits, which they and their firms paid into.  The Republican-run 113th U.S. House, under the sway of its Tea Party zealots, shows no sign of wanting to extend federal jobless benefits for three months, as Obama and organized labor demand.
            Almost one of every seven workers (13%) are either jobless, those who work part-time even though they want full-time employment or those so discouraged they have stopped looking.  Last December, that share of the workforce was 14.4%.  It was 15.2% at the end of 2011.
            Factories added 9,000 jobs in December, rising to 12.028 million, up from 11.99 million at the end of 2012.  The December gains were all in fabricated metal products (+5,000), steel and primary metals (+3,000) and food plants (+5,300).  Cars and parts (+39,800 jobs) was the big gainer for the whole year, with food plants (+10,500) second.
            There were 854,000 jobless factory workers (5.5%) at the end of 2013, down two full percentage points, and 291,000 in number, from December 2012.
            Construction shed 16,000 jobs in December, cutting its gains to 122,000 for the year.  That reflects the sluggish recovery of housing construction.  Most of last year’s gains (+73,000 jobs) were at specialty trade contractors.  And 958,000 (11.4%) construction workers were officially jobless at the end of 2013, down from 1.1 million – one out of seven – at the end of 2012.
            Construction union leaders say the jobless data underreports the distress among their workers, as a worker who’s working even one day in the week BLS uses for its counts is considered employed.
            Service-providing companies claimed to create 90,000 new jobs during December and 1.181 million during the year.  Low-paying jobs dominated the service industry additions in December and during the year: Temps (+40,400, +247,400 for the year), health care (+208,000 for the year, even after losing 6,000 jobs in December), and bars and restaurants (+9,400 in December and +306,000 for the year).
            There were 14.66 million health care workers at the end of 2013, and 10.41 million people toiling in bars and restaurants – the lowest-paying sector of all, according to federal data.
            The federal government shed 13,000 workers in December and 25,000 workers during the year, down to 2.72 million.  The Postal Service added 2,200 workers in December to handle the holiday rush, but still finished the year with 8,800 fewer workers than the year before, down to 594,000.
            Neither figure reflects the Postmaster General’s plan to shrink USPS by 100,000 through attrition and another 100,000 in firings.
            Local governments kept laying off workers in December, but states and local governments actually added 54,000 workers last year, to 19.13 million combined.  That yearly net gain was after a huge drop in local schools in December alone (-14,900).
-PAI