62.2%: Labor Force Participation Declines for 3rd Straight Month

Susan Jones | November 4, 2022 | 7:40am EDT
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(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - In the final jobs report before Election Day, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said the October employment situation weakened from the prior month.

In October, the unemployment rate increased two-tenths of a point to 3.7 percent; and the labor force participation rate declined a tenth of a point to 62.2 percent.

The number of employed Americans -- 158,608,000 in October -- dropped by 328,000 from September's all-time high of 158,936,000.  At the same time, the number of unemployed Americans increased by 306,000 to 6,059,000, and the combination of that unemployed up/employed down produced the higher unemployment rate.

The nonfarm economy added 261,000 jobs last month, well above the consensus estimate of 200,000. Notable job gains occurred in health care, professional and technical services, and manufacturing.

BLS notes that Hurricane Ian "had no discernible effect on the national employment and unemployment data for October."

In October, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 264,535,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution, such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care facility.

Of that civilian non-institutional population, 164,667,000 were participating in the labor force, meaning they were either employed or unemployed -- they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month. This resulted in a labor force participation rate of 62.2 percent in October, down from 62.3 percent in September and 62.4 percent in August, so the trend is negative.

The labor force participation rate reflects the active workforce -- the percentage of civilian, non-institutionalized workers available for the production of goods and services, so the higher, the better.

The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.2 percent, is still more than a point below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent recorded in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down.

After rising for more than three decades, the overall labor force participation rate peaked in early 2000 at 67.3 percent and subsequently trended down. In recent years, baby-boom retirements have contributed to the decline in the overall participation rate.

The number of Americans not in the labor force -- they have no job and are not looking for one -- also moved in the wrong direction last month, increasing 201,000 to 99,868,000.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult women (3.4 percent) and Whites (3.2 percent) rose in October. The jobless rates for adult men (3.3 percent), teenagers (11.0 percent), Blacks (5.9 percent), Asians (2.9 percent), and Hispanics (4.2 percent) showed little or no change over the month.

In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 12 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $32.58, so wages are not keeping up with inflation. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.7 percent, while inflation is running at 8.2 percent year to year.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised down by 23,000, from +315,000 to +292,000, and the change for September was revised up by 52,000, from +263,000 to +315,000. With these revisions, employment gains in August and September combined were 29,000 higher than previously reported.

More demand than supply

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the labor market remains "very strong" but also "out of balance."

"Despite the slowdown in (economic) growth, the labor market remains extremely tight, with the unemployment rate at a 50-year low, job vacancies still very high, and wage growth elevated,” Powell said, as he announced another hike in interest rates.

"Job gains have been robust, with employment rising by an average of 289,000 jobs per month over August and September. Although job vacancies have moved below their highs and the pace of job gains has slowed from earlier in the year, the labor market continues to be out of balance, with demand substantially exceeding the supply of available workers.

“The labor force participation rate is little changed since the beginning of the year.”

Powell said reducing inflation is necessary to provide "a sustained period of strong labor market conditions."

The business and economic reporting of CNSNews.com is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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