Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported some positive news in its most recent jobs report.
In November, 203,000 more Americans were employed and the unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent, according to BLS estimates released Dec. 6.
Job growth occurred across many industries, including transportation and warehousing, health care, and manufacturing. More promising, advocates said, was the news that African-American unemployment dropped from 13.1 percent to 12.5 percent.
“This is encouraging news, as the African American unemployment rate has persistently been double the national rate and is still quite high,” U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement.
“To continue this positive trend, we must invest and improve the job training programs in our communities that ensure our workforce has the skills needed for the jobs that are available,” she added. “We must also ensure employers have a pipeline into our communities where they can find talent to meet their needs.”
Economists cautioned that the numbers could be somewhat misleading, however, as the federal government shutdown in October may have caused distortions in the BLS survey. And, while the news is positive, the economy still has a long way to go to regain its pre-recession strength.
“We still need 7.9 million jobs to get back to the prerecession unemployment rate,” Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in an analysis of the report. “Additionally, millions of potential workers remain sidelined. There are nearly 5.7 million workers who are neither employed nor actively seeking a job. These are people who would be working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger.”
If these discouraged or otherwise marginally-attached workers were counted among the unemployed, Gould said, the unemployment rate would have been 10.3 percent in November.
There are also some looming challenges on the horizon that could impact the labor market’s upward trajectory, Fudge warned.
“At the end of this year, unemployment insurance will expire for nearly 1.3 million people in this country, and will expire for nearly 800,000 more at the beginning of 2014. If Congress does not act to extend unemployment benefits by December 31, our economy will lose more than 200,000 jobs,” she said.
“We also have another looming budget deadline in January that must be met,” she added. “If we do not have a budget plan by January 15, our nation’s Capital and the vital services our government provides would once again come to a standstill.”