U.S. unemployment rate 7.2%, 524,000 jobs lost

If you recall, last month the figure was quoted at 533,000 jobs lost in November and unemployment came in at 6.7% (now revised up to 6.8%), up from 6.5% in October.  The consensus estimate for December, according to Bloomberg was for 7.0% and 525,000 jobs lost. So, the consensus was expecting a repeat of November and that is largely what they got.

A tidbit you should know is that 2008 was the worst year for job losses since 1945.

Here is what the BLS said in their summary (I have highlighted the key sections):

Total Employment and the Labor Force (Household Survey Data)

The civilian labor force (154.4 million) and the labor force participation rate (65.7 percent) were little changed in December. The employment-population ratio fell by 0.4 percentage point to 61.0 percent over the month and by 1.7 percentage points in 2008. (See table A-1.)

In December, the number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) continued to increase, reaching 8.0 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.4 million over the past 12 months.

This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find fulltime jobs. (See table A-5.)

Persons Not in the Labor Force (Household Survey Data)

About 1.9 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in December, 564,000 more than 12 months earlier. These individuals 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 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, there were 642,000 discouraged workers in December, up by 279,000 from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work specifically because they believe no jobs are available for them. The other 1.3 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-13.)

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data)

Total nonfarm payroll employment declined sharply (-524,000) in December. Over the past 4 months, payroll employment has fallen by 1.9 million, or 1.4 percent. In December, large job losses continued in manufacturing, construction, and employment services, while health care continued to add jobs. (See table B-1.)

Manufacturing employment fell by 149,000 in December, the largest over-the-month decline since August 2001. Factory job losses totaled 791,000 in 2008, with nearly half of the decrease occurring in the fourth quarter. In December, declines were widespread among the component industries. The largest job losses occurred in fabricated metal products (-28,000) and motor vehicles and parts (-21,000).

Employment in construction continued to decline (-101,000) in December and has fallen by 899,000 since peaking in September 2006. Over the month, job losses occurred throughout the industry.

Within professional and business services, the temporary help industry lost 81,000 jobs in December, bringing job losses in 2008 to 490,000. In December, employment also fell in the management of companies and enterprises (-8,000) and in architectural and engineering services (-7,000).

Employment in retail trade declined by 67,000 in December and by 522,000 for all of 2008. More than half of the losses in 2008 occurred in the last 4 months of the year.

In December, employment decreased in automobile dealerships (-22,000), furniture and home furnishing stores (-8,000), and electronics and appliance stores (-5,000). Wholesale trade employment fell by 30,000 over the month and by 164,000 in 2008.

Elsewhere in the service-providing sector, employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 24,000 in December, with losses in truck transportation (-16,000) and air transportation (-4,000). The information industry lost 20,000 jobs over the month. Food services employment continued to trend downward (-20,000) and has decreased by 104,000 since its recent peak in June 2008. Employment in financial activities edged down in December and fell by 148,000 in 2008.

Health care employment continued to grow in December (32,000), with over-the-month job gains in ambulatory services (14,000) and hospitals (12,000). In 2008, health care added 372,000 jobs.

The change in total nonfarm employment for October was revised from -320,000 to -423,000, and the change for November was revised from -533,000 to -584,000. Monthly revisions result from additional sample reports and the monthly recalculation of seasonal factors.

Weekly Hours (Establishment Survey Data)

In December, the average workweek for production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls fell by 0.2 hour to 33.3 hours, seasonally adjusted–the lowest level on record for the series, which began in 1964. The manufacturing workweek, at 39.9 hours, declined by 0.4 hour over the month, and factory overtime, at 3.0 hours, declined by 0.3 hour. (See table B-2.)

The index of aggregate weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls fell by 1.1 percent in December and 4.0 percent since peaking in December 2007. The manufacturing index declined by 2.4 percent over the month.
(See table B-5.)

Hourly and Weekly Earnings (Establishment Survey Data)

In December, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted. This followed gains of 8 cents in November and 6 cents in October. For all of 2008, average hourly earnings increased by 3.7 percent and average weekly earnings rose by 2.2 percent.
(See table B-3.)

Employment Situation Summary – Bureau of Labor Statistics

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