Broader U-6 measure of unemployment falls to 15.6%; retail hiring accounts for most of Nov. job gains

A couple of points that I didn’t have a chance to make in an earlier post.

The U-6 measure of unemployment, which according to the BLS includes “total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” fell from 16.2% to 15.6%, seasonally adjusted, in November.

That’s a significant drop that was caused primarily by a decline in the labor force participation rate.

There’s a bit of a puzzle here, however. Most of the 315,000 who dropped out of the labor force seem like they should have been counted in the U-6 measure, but it appears that the dropouts may have given up so entirely that they don’t even count as being “marginally attached.”

By far the biggest sector that improved in November was retail trade, which added 49,800 jobs, seasonally adjusted. November is always a big month for retail hiring, but that number indicates that this year exceeded typical expectations dramatically. Will those extra jobs still be there in January, which is typically a bad month for retail hiring?

Following typical patters, those with less education and younger workers have the highest unemployment rates. Among 16 to 19 year olds, the unemployment rate is 23.7%; among those 20 to 24, it’s 14.2%. (Those numbers are seasonally adjusted and obviously only include those who are working or are actively seeking work.)

Here’s what the unemployment rate looks like over the last two years:

While we’ve seen steady improvement there, I’m much more concerned about the total number of jobs. There’s a graph about that in my post from earlier today.