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The U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs in November 2015, piling on to October’s hiring boom, as the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment data.
“Job growth … slightly exceeded many economists’ predictions,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “Not only did the unemployment rate hold steady at the lowest level since April 2008, the labor force participation rate also went up slightly. Looking at the jobs picture over the long term, we have 13.7 million jobs added over 69 straight months, the longest streak of jobs added on record.”
Now that more jobs are available, “workers are far more likely to browse for better positions or be contacted by competitors and recruiters looking to poach them,” said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for talent acquisition software provider iCIMS.
Employment in several industries continued to trend up from previous months, including:
Health care and retail have the biggest number of positions to be filled, Vitale said.
Retail trade employment increased by 31,000 in November and the sector has added 284,000 jobs in 2015. Health care employment increased by 24,000 over the month, following a large gain in October (+51,000). In November, hospitals added 13,000 jobs. Health care employment has grown by 470,000 over the year.
“Health care in particular will continue to be seen as a field of great opportunity for job seekers as providers scramble to find and keep skilled people to help support the aging American population,” Vitale said. “For recruiters, however, the task of sourcing and hiring workers is not an easy one when health care is also experiencing the smallest supply of applicants for open positions.”
Wages Still Troubling
Average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents to $25.25, following a 9-cent gain in October. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3 percent.
“Wage growth has been considered an area of concern for some time now,” said Schramm. “Economists would expect it to be over 3 percent and even as high as 4 percent, given the increases in employment during the recovery and in 2015.”
But growth in nominal wages (wages unadjusted for inflation) has been flat since mid-2009 when the recovery began, she explained. “In some ways, this has not been surprising because high levels of long-term unemployment and the large number of workers who are only working part-time but want full-time work indicated that many job seekers were still not in a position to negotiate higher wages during the recovery.”
On the other hand, Schramm said that steady job growth and SHRM’s data on recruiting difficulty shows that employers are having trouble filling many key positions. “In those cases we should expect wages to be going up, especially for high-skilled jobs of most strategic importance to organizations,” she said.
So what’s going on? “Some economists think that more low-wage jobs have been added in this recovery, so even though there has been job growth, average wages are still down because the economy is now made up of more low-wage jobs,” she said. There are other economists who disagree with this assessment, however, she added. “Productivity rates have also declined in the last decade and this has likely also kept wages from growing.”
Unemployment Holds Steady
There are officially 7.9 million unemployed individuals in the United States as of November 2015, corresponding to a 5 percent jobless rate seen by the Department of Labor as consistent with full employment. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate and the number of the unemployed have been down by 0.8 percentage point and 1.1 million, respectively.
The unemployment rates for adult men (4.7 percent) and adult women (4.6 percent) showed little or no change from the previous month’s tally, as did the figures for unemployed individuals who are Hispanic (6.4 percent) and white (4.3 percent). The unemployment rates for Asians (3.9 percent) and blacks (9.4 percent) rose slightly. Teenagers’ jobless rate fell from 15.9 percent to 15.7 percent.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) sits at 2.1 million and accounts for 25.7 percent of the unemployed.
The civilian labor force participation rate—stuck on low for years—remained steady at 62.5 percent. The number of individuals categorized as involuntary part-time workers—those seeking full-time employment but working part time—increased by 319,000 to 6.1 million in November, following declines in September and October. Additionally, 1.7 million people were considered marginally attached to the labor force—that is, they are unemployed but want and are available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the previous 12 months. Among this group, 594,000 individuals were considered discouraged—not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.
The remaining 1.1 million people marginally attached to the labor force in November had not searched for work in the past month for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities, according to the BLS.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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