November 2017 Unemployment Update

Continuing our ongoing coverage of the labor market, the November Employment Situation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows no major changes from October.  The headline U-3 unemployment was unchanged, and the U-6 “underemployment” rate rose slightly.  

January October


U-3 Unemployment Rate 4.8% 4.1% 4.1% -0.7%
U-6 Unemployment Rate 9.4% 7.9% 8.0% -1.4%
Civilian Noninstitutional Population* 254,082 255,776 255,949 +1,867
Civilian Labor Force 159,716 160,381 160,529 +813
Employed 152,081 153,861 153,918 +1,837
Unemployed 7,635 6,520 6,610 -1,025
Employment-Population Ratio 59.9% 60.2% 60.1% +0.2%
Part-time for Economic Reasons 5,840 4,753 4,801 -1,039
Marginally Attached to Workforce 1,752 1,535 1,481 -271
  • Discouraged Workers
532 524 469 -63
* All numbers are in thousands, and are seasonally-adjusted

Overall the picture of the last few months is a tight but basically stable labor market.  The primary threat to this stability in the short run is Congress.  While the government shutdown can has been kicked to December 22, the confluence of the tax bill, conflicts over DACA, and the impending recess on December 18 creates a real risk that a shutdown may occur anyway.  The disruption of paychecks to government employees and contractors could create a hit to consumer and corporate spending large enough to undermine employment on at least a short-term basis.  Thankfully there’s a small amount of cushion in the interest rate so if the economy slows down more significantly the Federal Reserve can still boost the economy slightly by undoing recent rate increases.