Unemployment Holds Steady in October

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 337,000 in October, and the un- employment rate was about unchanged at 5.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported. Construction em- ployment rose sharply over the month, and several service-providing indus- tries also added jobs.

Unemployment (Household Survey Data) Both the number of unemployed persons, 8.1 million, and the unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, were essentially unchanged from September to October. The jobless rate has held fairly steady thus far this year and remains below its most recent high of 6.3 percent in June 2003.

In October, the unemployment rates for the major worker groups—adult men (4.9 percent), adult women (4.8 percent), teenagers (17.2 percent), whites (4.7 percent), blacks (10.7 percent) and Hispanics or Latinos (6.7 percent)— showed little or no change over the month. The unemployment rate for Asians was 4.8 percent in October, not seasonally adjusted.

Total Employment and the Labor Force (Household Survey Data) Total employment edged up in October to 139.8 million, and the employment- population ratio—the proportion of the population age 16 and over with jobs— remained at 62.3 percent. The civilian labor force rose by 367,000 over the month to 147.9 million, and the labor force participation rate was unchanged at 65.9 percent.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data) Boosted by cleanup and reconstruction efforts in hurricane-affected areas of the Southeast, employment in construction increased by 71,000 in October. The construction industry has added 355,000 jobs since its most recent low in March 2003. Most of the October employment gain in construction occurred among specialty trade contractors (54,000); employment also rose in construc- tion of buildings (11,000).

Professional and business services employment rose by 97,000 in October, with temporary help services accounting for about half of the increase (48,000). Since April 2003, temporary help services has added 397,000 jobs. In October, employment in architectural and engineering services rose by 8,000.

Employment in education and health services grew by 62,000 in October, with gains of 22,000 in educational services and 41,000 in health care and social assistance. The large increase in health care and social assistance followed a relatively small gain in September (10,000). Taken together, em- ployment growth over the 2 months was in line with the trend over the past year. October job gains occurred in ambulatory health care services (22,000), hospitals (6,000), and social assistance (11,000).

Financial activities employment increased by 17,000 over the month, and has risen by 113,000 since the beginning of the year. The securities, com- modity contracts, and investments industry added 8,000 jobs in October, as did the credit intermediation industry.

Within government, local education added 32,000 jobs in October and has increased by 124,000 over the past 12 months.

Manufacturing employment was about unchanged in October and has shown lit- tle change since May. Manufacturing added 82,000 jobs over the February through May period.

Retail trade employment was little changed overall in October (+21,000); its electronics and appliance stores component gained 7,000 jobs. Retail trade has added 188,000 jobs since its recent low in December 2003. Whole- sale trade employment was about unchanged in October.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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