U.S. jobless rate declines to 4.6%, 178,000 new workers added to payrolls

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 315 views 

The U.S. jobless rate fell to 4.6% in November as the health care and professional and business services sectors continued to add new jobs to the nation’s economy, according to the data released Friday (Dec. 2) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The drop in November from 4.9% in October edged the U.S. unemployment rate closer to Arkansas’ jobless rate, which has hovered around 4% for several months and closed the month of October at that same level.

In October, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9% and just 161,000 jobs were added to employer payrolls. Thus far in 2016, employment growth has averaged 180,000 per month, compared with an average monthly increase of 229,000 in 2015.

Nationwide, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by an estimated 178,000 and the number of unemployed persons declined by 387,000 to 7.4 million. The jobless rate and the number of workers unemployed workers in the labor pool have little movement, on net, from August 2015 through October 2016, the BLS said.

Other monthly employment indicators show that hiring remains mostly flat heading into the holiday shopping season. ADP and Moody’s Analytics monthly job reports show 216,000 positions were added in November, significantly beating economists’ expectations of 165,000 gains.

Also, the CBIZ Small Business Employment Index (SBEI), a barometer for hiring trends that surveys labor data from more than 4,000 companies, there was a 0.17% decline in employee headcounts in November after data showed that almost an identical number of companies cut staffing as those that grew payrolls. While virtually neutral, the reading is the fifth consecutive negative reading for the index as the October SBEI saw a decrease in hiring of 1.61%.

“November has historically been a flat month for payroll changes, as the average reading for the past five years has seen no greater than a 0.1 percent decrease,” says Philip Noftsinger, president of CBIZ Employee Services Organization. “One of the big seasonal influences on payrolls can be the holiday shopping and entertainment season, and those in hospitality and retail have already hired most of their part-time help, so a flat reading for the month indicates the holiday season is meeting expectations thus far.”

Employment in professional and business services rose by 63,000 in November and has risen by 571,000 over the year. Over the month, accounting and bookkeeping services added 18,000 jobs. Employment continued to trend up in administrative and support services (+36,000), computer systems design and related services (+5,000), and management and technical consulting services (+4,000).

Health care employment rose by 28,000 in November. Within the industry, employment growth occurred in ambulatory health care services (+22,000). Over the past 12 months, health care has added 407,000 jobs.

Employment in construction continued on its recent upward trend in November (+19,000), with a gain in residential specialty trade contractors (+15,000). Over the past 3 months, construction has added 59,000 jobs, largely in residential construction.

Earlier this week, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) visited central Arkansas to push for a federal civil works program under President-elect Donald Trump that would invest more than $1 trillion in the nation’s aging infrastructure and bring more construction jobs to the Arkansas economy. Nationwide, AGC said 73 out of 358 metro areas lost construction jobs over the past year, while construction employment was stagnant in another 62 areas. The number jobs in the construction, mining and logging sector in Arkansas has declined by 3% or 1,700 workers between October 2015 and October 2016, the construction trade group said.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, changed little over the month.

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 3 cents to $25.89, following an 11-cent increase in October. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5%. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged up by 2 cents to $21.73 in November.