Despite the loss of 85,000 non-farm payroll jobs, the official US unemployment rate remained flat in December 2009, registering 10% for the second straight month, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The economy shed substantially more non-farm payroll jobs than the 11,000 lost in November 2009, but showed considerable improvement from the 190,000 non-farm payroll jobs that were lost in October 2009, reports Retailer Daily.
Retail trade jobs remained essentially flat, although general merchandise stores eliminated 15,000 jobs.
The December 2009 unemployment rate reflects unemployed persons actively looking for work. The BLS reported that it stood at 5% when the recession began in December 2007. Since that time, the number of unemployed persons has increased almost 100%, from 7.7 million to 15.3 million. In November, 15.3 million people were also counted as unemployed.
Looking beyond these numbers, many more Americans are unable to find work than those counted in the official unemployment figure. The civilian labor force participation rate, which is the proportion of the non-institutionalized civilian population age 16 and older serving in the labor force, declined from 65% to 64.6%. This figure stood at 66% in December 2007. The employment-population ratio, which measures the ratio of employed persons to the total non-institutionalized civilian population age 16 and older, fell from 58.5% to 58.2%, and stood at 62.7% in December 2007.
Several other pieces of unemployment data also reflect trouble with the US job situation:
- The number of employed persons working part-time for economic reasons remained virtually flat at 9.2 million.
- About 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, an increase of 578,000, or 30.1%, from 1.92 million persons in November 2008. 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 four weeks preceding the survey.
- Among the marginally attached, there were 929,000 discouraged workers, a 44.7% increase from 642,000 discouraged workers a year earlier and 37.2% of total marginally attached workers. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work
because they believe no jobs are available for them. The other roughly 1.57 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in November had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
On a more positive note, a recent privately produced source of unemployment research indicates that more jobs may be on the way in 2010. According to the November 2009 Outlook from the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), the official US unemployment rate should peak in Q110. After that, beginning in Q210, the study predicts US employers will begin adding jobs, which will ease the US unemployment rate.
Although economists surveyed by NABE predict US employers will begin hiring this year, they do not foresee an immediate turnaround. Some 61% predict unemployment will not return to pre-recession levels until 2012, and the consensus is that unemployment will remain above 9% throughout 2010.