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Economy in Brief

U.S. Payroll Growth Disappoints but Jobless Rate Falls Sharply in November
by Tom Moeller  December 3, 2021

• Hiring growth is slowest this year.

• Jobless rate tumbles to lowest since February 2020.

• Earnings growth eases.

The labor market turned in a mixed performance last month. Nonfarm payroll employment increased 210,000 (4.1% y/y) during November following a 546,000 October gain, revised from 531,000. A 515,000 rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

The unemployment rate declined to 4.2% in November from 4.6% in October. A 4.5% rate had been expected. Employment in the household survey surged 1.136 million following a 359,000 October rise. The labor force rose 594,000 last month after rising 104,000 in October.  The overall unemployment rate, including those who were marginally attached or working part-time for economic reasons, fell to 7.8% from 8.3%. It was the lowest level since February of last year and compared to a recession high of 22.9%.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.3% (4.8% y/y) in November following a 0.4% rise. It was the smallest increase since March. A 0.4% rise had been expected.

The rise in payroll employment weakened last month due to a widespread slowdown in the private sector where payrolls rose 235,000 (4.6% y/y) following a 628,000 increase. Private service sector hiring rose 175,000 in November (4.9% y/y) after a 534,000 October gain. The level of hiring in professional & business sector employment strengthened 90,000 (5.5% y/y) after a 121,000 increase as temporary employment improved 6,200 (10.7% y/y) following a 46,400 surge. Trade, transportation & public utilities employment rose 37,000 last month (3.0% y/y) after a 111,000 increase. Hiring in retail trade fell 20,400 last month (+2.2% y/y) after rising 37,800 in October. Leisure & hospitality sector jobs rose 23,000 (14.3% y/y) after surging 170,000 in October. Financial sector employment gained 13,000 (1.7% y/y) after rising 26,000 in October. Education & health services employment edged 4,000 higher (2.1% y/y) after increasing 59,000 in October. Information services jobs eased 2,000 in November (+5.2% y/y) after an 11,000 increase.

Government sector payrolls declined 25,000 in November (+1.4% y/y), off for the fourth straight month. Local government employment fell 18,000 (+1.7% y/y), also down for the fourth consecutive month while the number of state government jobs fell 9,000 (+1.8% y/y) after declining in the each of the prior two months. Federal government payrolls edged 2,000 higher (-0.3% y/y) following two months of decline.

Steady growth continued in the factory sector employment where payrolls rose 31,000 last month (3.0% y/y), up for the seventh consecutive month. Construction sector payrolls also improved 31,000 (2.6% y/y) in November, strong for the third straight month. Employment in the mining & logging industry eased 2,000 last month (+8.2% y/y), but it had been increasing since January.

Average hourly earnings in the private sector improved 0.3% in November (4.8% y/y) after rising 0.4% in October. Earnings in the leisure & hospitality sector strengthened 0.8% (12.3% y/y) while financial sector pay rose 0.5% (5.0% y/y). Professional & business service sector earnings rose 0.3% (5.8% y/y). Earnings in education & health services edged 0.1% higher (5.6% y/y) . Factory sector pay improved 0.2% (4.0% y/y) while construction sector earnings firmed 0.3% (4.8% y/y).

The length of the average workweek recovered to 34.8 hours last month after slipping to 34.7 hours in October. The financial sector workweek eased to 37.5 hours from 37.6 hours. The information sector workweek improved to 37.0 hours in November after two months at 36.9 hours. Hours-worked in the professional & business service sector were 36.7 for the third straight month and the education & health services workweek was stable at 33.3 hours. The leisure & hospitality workweek rose to 26.4 hours, the highest level in four months. The factory sector workweek rose to 40.4 hours after falling to a reduced 40.3 hours in October. The construction workweek rose sharply to 39.0 hours after falling to 38.7 hours in October.

From the household employment survey, the lower 4.2% unemployment rate in November occurred as the labor force participation rate rose to 61.8%, but it remained below the 63.4% high in January of 2020. The participation rate for for teenagers was unchanged at 36.4%, but for individuals aged 20-24, it rose to 72.1% which was the highest level since February 2020. For workers aged 25-54, the rate rose to 81.8% but remained below the January 2020 high of 83.0%. For men aged 25-54, the rate improved slightly to 88.2%. For women of that age, the participation rate improved to 75.6% and has been trending higher since the spring of last year. For workers aged 55 & over, the participation rate held at 38.4% and remained below the July-2019 high of 40.5%.

The employment/population ratio for all workers rose to 59.2% in November and has been trending higher since early last year. It nevertheless remained well below the February 2020 high of 61.1%. A greatly lessened 17.533 million (-46.4% y/y) worked at home because of the coronavirus.

The average duration of unemployment rose to 28.9 weeks in November, the highest level in three months and remained well above 23.0 weeks twelve months earlier. The median unemployment duration rose to 12.7 weeks but was down from a recent high of 19.8 weeks in June.

The teenage unemployment rate fell to 11.2% last month and remained below the record 32.1% in April of last year. The rate for workers aged 20-24 rose slightly to 7.6% in November but remained near its 2020 low. For workers aged 25-54, the rate fell sharply to 3.8%, well below last April's high of 12.8%. For those over 55, the jobless rate held fell to an expansion low of 3.3%.

By educational attainment, the rate of unemployment of workers without a high school diploma fell sharply in November to 5.7% and remained below the 9.2% rate one year earlier. High school graduates without any college were a lessened 5.2% unemployed last month, down from the April 2020 high of 17.3%. Those with some college but no degree were unemployed at 3.7%, down sharply from the April 2020 peak of 15.0%. College graduates saw their unemployment rate ease to 2.3% last month but it remained above the 1.9% low in February of last year.

The employment & earnings data are collected from surveys taken each month during the week containing the 12th of the month. The labor market data are contained in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are in the EMPL and LABOR databases. The expectations figures are in the AS1REPNA database.

Employment (SA, M/M Change, 000s) Nov Oct Sep Nov Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Payroll Employment 210 546 379 4.1% -5.8% 1.3% 1.6%
 Previous Estimate -- 531 312 -- -- -- --
  Manufacturing 31 48 29 3.0 -5.0 1.0 2.0
  Construction 31 43 35 2.6 -3.0 2.8 4.6
  Private Service-Producing 175 534 359 4.9 -6.6 1.4 1.5
  Government -25 -82 -45 1.4 -3.1 0.7 0.5
Average Weekly Hours - Private Sector 34.8 34.7 34.8 34.8 34.6 34.4 34.5
Private Sector Average Hourly Earnings (%) 0.3 0.4 0.6 4.8 4.8 3.3 3.0
Unemployment Rate (%) 4.2 4.6 4.8 6.7 8.1 3.7 3.9
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