Employment figures for November fell short of seasonal expectations according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an analysis from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture found. The employment numbers, typically buoyed by holiday retail sales, grew slightly from those in October.
Non-farm payrolls grew 245,000 jobs in November, but that was a lower rate than the 610,000 jobs added in October. Cumulative growth in payrolls for May through November amounts to 12.3 million jobs, against 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April, when the COVID-19 pandemic began shuttering businesses in the United States.
The overall unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% in November from 6.9% in October.
“The November jobs report fell well short of expectations, with most pre-report analysts looking for job growth in excess of 400,000 new jobs in November,” agricultural economist John Anderson said.
Private-sector employment gains were relatively widespread, except for retail, which posted a decline of 34,700 jobs in November.
“Normally, November would witness a significant surge in retail sector jobs as that sector staffs up for the Christmas season,” he said. “This month’s data suggest that retailers are not staffing up at the normal rate. Whether this means they are anticipating a disappointing sales season or just less in-person traffic is not clear.”
He did note that the transportation and warehousing sector added 145,000 jobs in November.
“That’s more than twice the rate of hiring from the prior month and by far the largest November gain in that sector going back to the beginning of that data set in 1972,” Anderson said. “This underscores the significant changes in consumer shopping patterns that have resulted from the pandemic and suggests that these changes will carry though the Christmas shopping season – and, most likely, well beyond.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics report contains both the official unemployment rate and the rate of “discouraged workers” — people who would prefer to be working but are not actively looking for a job. This rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 12%. By comparison, this rate topped out at 22.8% in April.
Anderson said the rate of the discouraged worker group has generally followed the official employment rate.
“This suggests that workers have not generally become discouraged to the point of dropping out of the workforce in large numbers,” he said. “The relatively small change in workforce participation in November doesn’t reverse that trend, but it is an issue that will bear watching in the coming months.”