Press Releases

News from EPI Jobs Report Paints a Murky Picture

The jobs report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a relatively strong gain of 204,000 jobs in October, according to the report’s establishment survey, one of two conducted by the BLS each month. That, combined with an upward revision of 60,000 to prior months’ data, brought the average monthly growth rate over the last year to 194,000. The household survey, on the other hand, showed a 735,000 employment decline.

October’s partial government shutdown appears to have had no discernible impact on the establishment survey numbers because, in the establishment survey, federal employees on furlough were still considered employed. Meanwhile, furloughed government workers likely contributed 200,000 jobs to the decline in the household survey. However, that still means an employment decline of more than 500,000.

In her analysis, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz explains the different stories told by the two reports and writes that “the weak household survey dampens the optimism about the relatively large employment gain in the establishment survey.”

“At a time like this, when the month-to-month signal is potentially murky, it’s useful to step back and take stock of the larger picture,” Shierholz writes. “The larger picture, however, is grim. For example, we need 8.0 million jobs to get back to the prerecession unemployment rate, and at the average rate of growth of the last 12 months, that won’t happen for another five years.”

Shierholz’s analysis examines a number of trends in the labor market, including:

  • In October, the labor force participation rate hit its lowest point in more than 35 years
  • Long-term unemployment remains extremely high
  • Unemployment is elevated across the board—across all categories of education, age, gender, race/ethnicity, and occupation.
  • Wage growth is weak
  • Because the labor market is weak, there is disproportionate job growth in low-wage industries