Job Growth Sags and Unemployment Jumps in December

January 4, 2008 (Jobs Byte)

Job Growth Sags and Unemployment Jumps in December

Jobs Byte by Dean Baker

For Immediate Release: January 4, 2008
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Health care and restaurants accounted for 85.5 percent of job growth since September.  
The unemployment rate jumped by 0.3 percentage points to 5.0 percent in December, as employment growth virtually came to a halt. The 5.0 percent rate is the highest since November of 2005. However, the rate of increase was even more disturbing. This is the sharpest jump in the unemployment rate since a 0.3 pp rise in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001.

The rise in unemployment hit blacks and Hispanic workers especially hard, with both groups seeing a rise of 0.6 pp in their unemployment rates to 9.0 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. There continues to be an unusual age pattern to employment trends. Employment for workers over age 55 rose modestly, while reportedly falling by 436,000 for workers under age 55. While this December decline is probably an anomaly, employment for workers under age 55 has fallen by 625,000 over the last year.

Other data in the household survey is consistent with the picture of labor market weakness. The share of unemployment attributable to people who voluntarily quit their jobs, a measure of workers’ confidence in the labor market, fell to 10.4 percent, the lowest level since October of 2004. There was an increase of 124,000 in the number of workers involuntarily employed part-time, the second consecutive large increase, and a 32 percent jump in the number of discouraged workers from year ago levels.