December employment report offers mixed bag

Employment Situation Summary

The unemployment rate fell by 0.4% point to 9.4% in December, and nonfarm payroll employment increased by 103,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment rose in leisure and hospitality and in health care but was little changed in other major industries.

Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons decreased by 556,000 to 14.5 million in December, and the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4%. Over the year, these measures were down from 15.2 million and 9.9%, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (9.4%) and whites (8.5%) declined in December. The unemployment rates for adult women (8.1%), teenagers (25.4%), blacks (15.8%), and Hispanics (13%) showed little change. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.2%, not seasonally adjusted. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

In December, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs dropped by 548,000 to 8.9 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 6.4 million and accounted for 44.3 percent of the unemployed. (See tables A-11 and A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate edged down in December to 64.3%, and the employment population ratio was essentially unchanged at 58.3%. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged in December at 8.9 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)

About 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in December, little different than a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.(See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 1.3 million discouraged workers in December, an increase of 389,000 from December 2009. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.3 million persons marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

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