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Volume XII, Number 341

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Why It's Good the Unemployment Rate Ticked Up

In August, the U.S. economy added 315,000 jobs, bringing the 3-month average to 378,000 jobs. The private sector added 308,000 jobs. Every sector saw job gains, with the largest gains in professional and business services (+68,000), health care (+48,000) and retail trade (+44,000). With this report, the wholesale trade sector fully recovered. 

The unemployment rate rose for a positive reason – more unemployed workers began seeking jobs. 

In August, the labor force participation increased to 62.4% after stagnating for several months. This increase in participation led to a slight increase in the unemployment rate, now at 3.7%. This rise was a positive sign – Americans who were not employed and not looking for work began to look for work,  becoming classified as unemployed. (Unemployed persons must be actively looking for work to be counted in the primary measure of the unemployment rate.) 

Notably, the prime-age (25-54 years old) employment to population ratio recovered, particularly the employment-to-population ratio for prime-age women. And prime-age women’s labor force participation rate now exceeds its February 2020 point. This is one month of data that we hope will become a trend. 

Change in Force Labor Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2020

Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2022, accessible version

Racial unemployment gaps persist 

Disaggregating labor market data by race and gender is important for getting a fuller picture of labor market outcomes and for advancing policy designed to uplift all of America. The Department continues this commitment with the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s publication of two new monthly data series: labor market indicators for Americans of two or more races and indicators for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders. (Learn more here.) Additionally, the gaps within unemployment rates by race and gender persist, including in the August jobs data, even as workers of all races get jobs and labor force participation improves. 

Chart comparing the unemployment rate by race and gender in January 2021 and August 2022. The rate has decreased in all categories.

Unemployment Rate by Race and Gender chart - accessible version

Labor market outcomes for Black and brown workers are correlated with the business cycle, though not completely determined by them. These inequities underscore the importance of investing in economic growth that is shared, including through the investments made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. At the Department of Labor, an equitable recovery and an equitable labor market are top priorities, from enforcing the federal laws targeting unfair and discriminatory practices to promoting pathways to good-paying jobs for everyone through the Good Jobs Initiative

Reprinted from U.S. Department of Labor, read original here.

This article is authored by Joelle Gamble, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2022 - accessible version. Note that the data are indexed, and February 2020 equals 100.

Date

Men

Women

Prime-age Men

Prime-age Women

Feb:2020

100

100

100

100

Mar:2020

98.98989899

98.61830743

99.77578475

98.95968791

Apr:2020

95.38239538

93.95509499

96.86098655

95.5786736

May:2020

96.24819625

95.16407599

97.75784753

96.6189857

Jun:2020

97.11399711

97.06390328

98.43049327

97.91937581

Jul:2020

96.82539683

97.23661485

98.0941704

97.65929779

Aug:2020

97.54689755

96.71848014

98.5426009

97.39921977

Sep:2020

97.4025974

96.20034542

98.31838565

96.74902471

Oct:2020

97.69119769

96.89119171

98.43049327

97.26918075

Nov:2020

97.25829726

96.71848014

97.86995516

97.00910273

Dec:2020

97.25829726

96.54576857

97.98206278

97.13914174

Jan:2021

97.4025974

95.85492228

98.20627803

97.13914174

Feb:2021

97.25829726

96.54576857

98.20627803

97.39921977

Mar:2021

97.11399711

97.06390328

98.20627803

97.7893368

Apr:2021

97.54689755

96.37305699

98.5426009

97.65929779

May:2021

97.4025974

96.37305699

98.5426009

97.52925878

Jun:2021

97.54689755

97.23661485

98.76681614

98.04941482

Jul:2021

97.54689755

97.40932642

98.99103139

98.30949285

Aug:2021

97.69119769

96.89119171

98.99103139

98.04941482

Sep:2021

97.69119769

96.71848014

98.87892377

97.91937581

Oct:2021

97.69119769

97.23661485

98.76681614

98.04941482

Nov:2021

97.83549784

97.40932642

98.87892377

98.43953186

Dec:2021

97.69119769

97.40932642

98.65470852

98.69960988

Jan:2022

97.97979798

97.75474957

98.87892377

98.82964889

Feb:2022

98.55699856

97.75474957

99.55156951

98.56957087

Mar:2022

98.55699856

98.27288428

99.43946188

99.47984395

Apr:2022

98.12409812

97.582038

99.43946188

99.08972692

May:2022

98.12409812

98.10017271

99.43946188

99.60988296

Jun:2022

97.83549784

98.44559585

99.10313901

99.34980494

Jul:2022

97.54689755

98.61830743

99.10313901

99.34980494

Aug:2022

97.83549784

98.61830743

99.32735426

100.390117

Unemployment Rate by Race and Gender, accessible version

 

National Average

Black Men

White Men

Hispanic Men

Asian Men

Black Women

White Women

Hispanic Women

Asian Women

January 2021

6.4

9.4

5.5

7.6

5.7

8.5

5.2

8.8

7.9

August 2022

3.7

6

3.1

3.9

2.7

5.9

2.8

4.3

3.1

© Copyright 2022 U.S. Department of LaborNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 250
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About this Author

The Department of Labor (DOL) fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and...

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