November Job Gains Miss Expectations, Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.2%

December 3, 2021 8:30 AM EST

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  • Change in Nonfarm Payrolls (Nov) 210K vs 550K Expected, Unemployment Rate 4.2%


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 210,000 in November, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent in November. The number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020). (See table A-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Blacks (6.7 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent) declined in November. The jobless rates for teenagers (11.2 percent) and Asians (3.8 percent) showed little change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers declined by 205,000 to 1.9 million in November but is 623,000 higher than in February 2020. The number of persons on temporary layoff decreased by 255,000 to 801,000 in November. This measure is down from the high of 18.0 million in April 2020 and has nearly returned to its February 2020 level of 750,000. (See table A-11.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 2.2 million, changed little in November but is 1.1 million higher than in February 2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 32.1 percent of the total unemployed in November. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate edged up to 61.8 percent in November. The participation rate is 1.5 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 59.2 percent in November. This measure is up from its low of 51.3 percent in April 2020 but remains below the figure of 61.1 percent in February 2020. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.3 million, changed little in November. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. This figure was about the same as in February 2020. (See table A-8.)

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 5.9 million in November, little changed over the month but up by 849,000 since February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force was little changed at 1.6 million in November. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was essentially unchanged over the month at 450,000. (See Summary table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In November, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic declined by 0.3 percentage point to 11.3 percent. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically because of the pandemic.

In November, 3.6 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the pandemic. This measure was little different from the level of 3.8 million in October. Among those who reported in November that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 15.8 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the prior month.

Among those not in the labor force in November, 1.2 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from October. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months are available online at www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 210,000 in November. Thus far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 555,000. Nonfarm employment has increased by 18.5 million since April 2020 but is down by 3.9 million, or 2.6 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. In November, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month. (See table B-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Professional and business services added 90,000 jobs in November. Job gains continued in administrative and waste services (+42,000), although employment in its temporary help services component changed little (+6,000). Job growth also continued in management and technical consulting services (+12,000) and in computer system design and related services (+10,000). Employment in professional and business services overall is 69,000 below its level in February 2020.

Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 50,000 in November and is 210,000 above its February 2020 level. In November, job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+27,000) and in warehousing and storage (+9,000).

Construction employment rose by 31,000 in November, following gains of a similar magnitude in the prior 2 months. In November, employment continued to trend up in specialty trade contractors (+13,000), construction of buildings (+10,000), and heavy and civil engineering construction (+8,000). Construction employment is 115,000 below its February 2020 level.

Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs in November. Job gains occurred in miscellaneous durable goods manufacturing (+10,000) and fabricated metal products (+8,000), while motor vehicles and parts lost jobs (-10,000). Employment in machinery declined by 6,000, largely reflecting a strike. Manufacturing employment is down by 253,000 since February 2020.

Employment in financial activities continued to trend up in November (+13,000) and is 30,000 above its February 2020 level. Job growth occurred in securities, commodity contracts, and investments in November (+9,000).

Employment in retail trade declined by 20,000 in November, with job losses in general merchandise stores (-20,000); clothing and clothing accessories stores (-18,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000). These losses were partially offset by job gains in food and beverage stores (+9,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+7,000). Retail trade employment is 176,000 lower than in February 2020.

Employment in leisure and hospitality changed little in November (+23,000), following large gains earlier in the year. Leisure and hospitality has added 2.4 million jobs thus far in 2021, but employment in the industry is down by 1.3 million, or 7.9 percent, since February 2020.

Health care employment was about unchanged in November (+2,000). Within the industry, employment in ambulatory health care services continued to trend up (+17,000), while nursing and residential care facilities lost 11,000 jobs. Employment in health care is down by 450,000 since February 2020, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for nearly all of the loss.

In November, employment showed little change in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, information, other services, and public and private education.

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 8 cents to $31.03. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.8 percent. In November, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 12 cents to $26.40. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.8 hours in November. In manufacturing, the average workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.4 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.1 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised up by 67,000, from +312,000 to +379,000, and the change for October was revised up by 15,000, from +531,000 to +546,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 82,000 higher than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)



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