U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November; 2014 is one of best years for job growth since 1990s

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 321,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains were widespread, led by growth in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.

Household Survey Data
In November, the unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent, and the number of unemployed persons was little changed at 9.1 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 1.2 percentage points and 1.7 million, respectively. […]

Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 321,000 in November, compared with an average monthly gain of 224,000 over the prior 12 months. In November, job growth was widespread, led by gains in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.

A couple of graphs from the BLS:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 11.22.20 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 11.22.10 AM

The labor force participation rate (seasonally adjusted) is 62.8 percent and has been moving within a very narrow range for months. It was 63.0 percent a year ago. Given the aging of the population, we will likely see that number stagnate or decline slightly for a period of years even if we see robust growth in the national economy.

A broader measure of unemployment, U-6 (“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”) is 11.4 percent, down from 13.1 percent in November 2013.

From Calculated Risk’s Employment Report Comments: Best Year for Employment since the ’90s:

Last month I posted a possible list of economic words for the year since I started this blog. This included “bubble”, “subprime”, “bailout” and more. For 2014 I suggested “employment”, and for 2015 I’m hoping for “wages”. 2014 has definitely been about jobs!

This was a strong employment report with 321,000 jobs added, and job gains for September and October were revised up. This was the tenth consecutive month over 200,000, and an all time record 50th consecutive month of job gains.

As always we shouldn’t read too much into one month of data, but at the current pace (through November), the economy will add 2.89 million jobs this year (2.80 million private sector jobs). This is the best year since 1999 (and, for private employment, this might be the best year since 1997).

Let’s say that again: “an all time record 50th consecutive month of job gains.”

In part, this strong growth was made possible by the depth of the 2007 to 2009 recession: we fell so far that some sectors had nowhere to go but up.

There are always unexpected things that can happen to destabilize the economy, but all those dire predictions in recent years of runaway inflation, of the ACA’s danger, of . . . well, you name it, all those predictions have turned out to be wrong. We have long-term issues re national debt and entitlements, but those can be addressed (and will have to be addressed at some point).

Barring some sort of external shock or Congressional brinksmanship that threatens to shut down government functions, I expect we’ll see continued job gains into 2015.

A graph from Calculated Risk:

PayrollNov2014

Still, I remain very concerned about the economy in much of Georgia. It looks like Atlanta and Savannah are among the metro areas sharing in the national gains, but for much of the state — including dozens and dozens of thinly populated rural counties — there seems little prospect for growth. We need to get serious about a health care alternative to replace the federal Medicaid expansion and about additional funding for education. Absent those long-term investments, things will likely just stagnate across a wide swath of the state.

5 comments for “U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November; 2014 is one of best years for job growth since 1990s

  1. Sim
    December 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    “The labor force participation rate remained at a 36-year low of 62.8 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” What are these numbers?

    • December 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Hey Sim,
      The labor force participation rate includes everyone 16 and over (I think that’s the cutoff) — the percentage is determined from the number of people of that age who are part of the labor force (either working or looking for work). A few decades ago, women were entering the labor force in large numbers and baby boomers were entering the labor force as they became adults. The labor force participation rate climbed steadily.

      But now we are seeing baby boomers retiring (a big demographic group), and we’re seeing more young adults in college for longer periods, the number of women in the labor force might have maxed out, etc.

      Some portion of the decline over the last 7 years in the labor force participation rate is certainly due to the weak economy, but much of the decline in the participation rate is due to demographics. As the large baby boom generation dies and younger cohorts represent larger percentages of the population, the rate should eventually go up again.

      Among men 16 to 64, the participation rate in Nov. was 82.2%, up from 82.0% a year ago. The rate for women 16 to 64 was 70.6%, up from 70.1% a year ago.

      In other words, among working age people, we’re actually seeing the labor force participation rate increase again. The commentators harping on the low rate overall either aren’t taking into account the aging of the baby boomers or are just trying to stir up trouble.

  2. Roxanna Milanno
    December 7, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Interesting you want to have your liberal views of greater spending = better results explain why Savannah has lower unemployment rates than rural GA. I doubt anyone would call out Savannah as hosting an exemplary school system. GA is one of a few states that offer FREE college tuition. YET the three states that have the lowest per pupil spending have some of the lowest unemployment rates. CONVERSELY NY has 6% unemployment rates for October. FACTS: UT ranked 50th in per pupil spending – 3.6% rate. ID ranked 49th- 4.1%. OK ranked 48th -4.5%. NY ranked 1st in spending yet had a 6.0% unemployment rate. As for our health care needs – Georgia’s obesity rate is the cause of many of our health care problems. The NO cost personal responsibilty plan would help with that !

    • December 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Thanks Roxanna, I’m a little puzzled by your comment since I’m not talking about greater government spending in this post at all.

      But since you bring it up, I think it seems obvious that the Savannah metro area benefits greatly from military spending, from government spending that supports the ports, from government spending on the airport, from local and federal spending on beach nourishment, etc.

      Savannah is also a regional health care hub that benefits greatly from Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs.

      As many others have noted, Savannah has a more diverse economy than much of the state including some major growth areas — tourism, the ports, health care, Gulfstream, etc. Much of that growth is purely private sector, much of it is government supported.

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