August 2017 Unemployment Update

The labor market shows continued signs of stability

Continuing our ongoing coverage of the labor market, the August Employment Situation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides even more evidence that the employment growth of the first half of the year has tapered off.  The headline U-3 unemployment rate rose by 0.1% back to June’s level, and the U-6 “underemployment” rate remained unchanged from July.

 

January


July


August

7-Month

Change  

U-3 Unemployment Rate

4.8%

4.3%

4.4%

-0.4%

U-6 Unemployment Rate

9.4%

8.6%

8.6%

-0.8%

     

Civilian Noninstitutional Population*

254,082

255,151

255,357

+1,275

Civilian Labor Force

159,716

160,494

160,571

+855

Employed

152,081

153,513

153,439

+1,358

Unemployed

7,635

6,981

7,132

-503

Employment-Population Ratio

59.9%

60.2%

60.1%

+0.2%

Part-time for Economic Reasons

5,840

5,282

5,255

-585

Marginally Attached to Workforce

1,752

1,629

1,548

-204

  • Discouraged Workers

532

536

448

-84

     

* All numbers are in thousands

    


The repeated oscillations in the discouraged worker numbers over the last several months suggests that there’s no real trend at the moment.  It’s entirely possible that the dislocations due to Hurricane Harvey will cause at least a temporary spike in unemployment over the next few months.  The recovery and repair efforts will presumably cancel that out over time, though research into the employment effects of Hurricane Katrina suggests that any widespread permanent evacuations (necessitated by destroyed communities and infrastructure) could negatively impact employment for the affected populations for some time to come.  Effective policies for returning evacuated communities to their homes will make the difference, so hopefully the rebuilding effort will avoid the endemic dysfunction of the Trump administration.

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