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The Employment Situation – October 2020

Even as the United States continues to witness significant spread in the Coronavirus cases, October’s economic growth was better than expected. According to the reports of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 in October, and the unemployment rate declined to 6.9%. 

This indicates that the U.S. labor market is reopening, and the economy is reaching the pre-COVID level. 

Major Ups and Down In October 

In October, the jobs in leisure and hospitality rose by 271,000, of which sub-sectors like food services and drinking places created 192,000 jobs, entertainment, arts, and recreation 44,000 jobs and accommodation 34,000 jobs. Although the Leisure and hospitality industry has added 4.8 million jobs since April, the employment is down by 3.5 million since February. 

The construction sector added 84,000 jobs in October. The specialty trade contractors added 28,00 jobs in the nonresidential and 18,000 in residential 18,000 subsectors. Employment in the construction of buildings and heavy and civil engineering construction also rose by 19,000 jobs each. Though the construction industry has added about 789,000 jobs in the last six months, the employment is down by 294,000 since February. 

The health care and social assistance sector added 79,000 jobs in October. While Health care added 58,000 jobs, Social assistance added 21,000 employment. The key contributors here are the hospitals with 16,000 jobs, outpatient care centers with 10,000 jobs, offices of physicians with 14,000 jobs, and offices of dentists with 11,000 jobs. However, the nursing and residential care facilities saw a decline of 9,000 jobs. 

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 63,000 in October. The major contributors here are warehousing and storage with 28,000 jobs, truck transportation with 10,000 jobs, and transit & ground passenger transportation with 25,000 jobs. However, air transportation witnessed a decline of 18,000 jobs. 

Employment in professional and business services rose by 208,000 jobs in October. Jobs in the services to buildings and dwellings also rose by 19,000, management and technical consulting services by 15,000, and computer systems design and related services by 16,000. 

The retail trade sector added 104,000 jobs in October 2020. Employment also rose in furniture and home furnishings stores by 14,000, motor vehicle and parts dealers by 23,000, general merchandise stores by 10,000, clothing and clothing accessories stores by 13,000, and nonstore retailers 9,000. 

Employment in food manufacturing and plastics and rubber products continued to witness an uptrend in October. The employment rate in the services industry also rose by 47,000 jobs in October. 

Establishment Survey Data

In October, the average hourly earnings for private nonfarm payroll employees rose by 4 cents to $29.50. On the other hand, the average hourly earnings for private-sector production employees and nonsupervisory increased by 5 cents to $24.82. However, the average workweek for private nonfarm payroll employees remained unchanged at 34.8 hours. 

While the workweek in the manufacturing sector rose by 0.3 hours to 40.5 hours, and overtime by 0.2 hours to 3.2 hours, the production and nonsupervisory witnessed an increase in an average workweek by 0.1 hours to 34.2 hours. 

Household Survey Data 

Workers Group  Unemployment Rate 
Adult men 6.7
Adult women  6.5
Teenagers  13.9
White Population 6.0
Black or African Population 10.8
Asian Population 7.6
Hispanics or Latinos 8.8

The unemployment rate for adult men increased by 3.5% against last year but decreased by 0.7% compared to September. The unemployment rate for adult women increased by 3.3% as compared to last year and the teenager unemployment rate by 1.6%

While the white population’s unemployment rate increased by 2.8% against last year by decreasing by 1.0% compared to the previous month, the unemployment rate for the black population rose by 5.3% compared to the last year. The Asian unemployment rate surged by 4.8%, Hispanics by 4.7% compared to the previous year. 

Final Words 

The U.S. labor market, though slowly, is returning to normalcy. The major contributors to the recovery are the retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business service sectors. Though the country’s unemployment rate is higher than the previous year, we can expect to see further improvements in the employment situation in the upcoming months. 

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