Employment Situation Summary October 2021

 

THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- OCTOBER 2021


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 531,000 in October, and the unemployment rate
edged down by 0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 
reported today. Job growth was widespread, with notable job gains in leisure and 
hospitality, in professional and business services, in manufacturing, and in 
transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month. 

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey 
measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The
establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For
more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys,
see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

The unemployment rate edged down to 4.6 percent in October. The number of unemployed 
persons, at 7.4 million, continued to trend down. Both measures are down considerably
from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain 
above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 
million, respectively, in February 2020). (See table A-1. See the box note at the end
of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its measures
were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men (4.3 percent) declined
in October. The jobless rates for adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (11.9 percent),
Whites (4.0 percent), Blacks (7.9 percent), Asians (4.2 percent), and Hispanics (5.9 
percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers, at 2.1 million, changed little
in October but is 828,000 higher than in February 2020. The number of persons on temporary
layoff, at 1.1 million, was little changed over the month. This measure is down 
considerably from the high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 306,000 above the February
2020 level. (See table A-11.)

In October, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) 
decreased by 357,000 to 2.3 million but is 1.2 million higher than in February 2020. The 
long-term unemployed accounted for 31.6 percent of the total unemployed in October. 
(See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.6 percent in October and has 
remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020. The 
participation rate is 1.7 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-
population ratio, at 58.8 percent, was little changed over the month. This measure is up
from its low of 51.3 percent in April 2020 but remains below the figure of 61.1 percent in
February 2020. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.4 million, was little
changed in October. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were
working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-
time jobs. This measure has essentially returned to its February 2020 level. (See table A-8.)

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.0 million in 
October, essentially unchanged over the month but up by 968,000 since February 2020. These
individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work
during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally 
attached to the labor force was little changed at 1.7 million in October. These individuals
wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 
months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of 
discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were 
available for them, was essentially unchanged over the month at 455,000. (See Summary
table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In October, 11.6 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic,
down from 13.2 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who 
teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey 
specifically because of the pandemic.

In October, 3.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their 
employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all or
worked fewer hours at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the pandemic. 
This measure is down from 5.0 million in September. Among those who reported in October that
they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 13.3 percent
received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from
the prior month.

Among those not in the labor force in October, 1.3 million persons were prevented from 
looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 1.6 million in September. 
(To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for
work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May 
2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are not 
seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months 
are available online at www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 531,000 in October. Thus far this year, monthly job
growth has averaged 582,000. Nonfarm employment has increased by 18.2 million since a recent
trough in April 2020 but is down by 4.2 million, or 2.8 percent, from its pre-pandemic level
in February 2020. Job growth was widespread in October, with notable job gains occurring in
leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in manufacturing, and in 
transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month. (See
table B-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how
the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 164,000 in October and has risen by 2.4
million thus far in 2021. Over the month, employment rose by 119,000 in food services and 
drinking places and by 23,000 in accommodation. Employment in leisure and hospitality is 
down by 1.4 million, or 8.2 percent, since February 2020.

Professional and business services added 100,000 jobs in October, including a gain of 41,000
in temporary help services. Employment continued to rise in management and technical 
consulting services (+14,000), other professional and technical services (+9,000), 
scientific research and development services (+6,000), and legal services (+5,000). 
Employment in professional and business services is 215,000 below its level in February 2020.

Employment in manufacturing increased by 60,000 in October, led by a gain in motor vehicles 
and parts (+28,000). Employment also rose in fabricated metal products (+6,000), chemicals 
(+6,000), and printing and related support activities (+4,000). Manufacturing employment is 
down by 270,000 since February 2020.

Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 54,000 in October and is 149,000 
above its February 2020 level. In October, job gains occurred in warehousing and storage 
(+20,000), transit and ground passenger transportation (+16,000), air transportation (+9,000),
and truck transportation (+8,000). Employment in couriers and messengers decreased by 5,000
in October, after increasing in the prior 3 months. 

Construction employment rose by 44,000 in October, following an increase of 30,000 in 
September. In October, employment increased in nonresidential specialty trade contractors 
(+19,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+12,000). Construction employment
is 150,000 below its February 2020 level.

Health care added 37,000 jobs in October, with most of the gain occurring in home health 
care services (+16,000) and nursing care facilities (+12,000). Employment in health care is 
down by 460,000 since February 2020.

In October, employment in retail trade rose by 35,000. Employment gains occurred in food and
beverage stores (+16,000), general merchandise stores (+15,000), health and personal care
stores (+8,000), and electronics and appliance stores (+6,000). These gains were partially 
offset by a job loss in building material and garden supply stores (-10,000). Retail trade 
employment is 140,000 lower than its level in February 2020.

Employment in the other services industry increased by 33,000 in October, as personal and
laundry services added 28,000 jobs. Employment in other services is 169,000 below its 
February 2020 level. 

Employment in financial activities rose by 21,000 in October and has returned to its 
February 2020 level. Over the month, job growth occurred in real estate and rental and 
leasing (+12,000) and in securities, commodity contracts, and investments (+11,000). 

Employment in wholesale trade increased by 14,000 in October, reflecting a gain in the
durable goods component. Employment in wholesale trade is 158,000 lower than in February
2020.

Mining employment continued to trend up in October (+5,000) but is down by 87,000 from a 
peak in January 2019. 

In October, employment decreased in local government education and state government 
education (-43,000 and -22,000, respectively). Employment changed little in private 
education (+17,000). Recent employment changes in public and private education are 
challenging to interpret, as pandemic-related staffing fluctuations have distorted the normal
seasonal hiring and layoff patterns. Since February 2020, employment is down by 370,000 in
local government education, by 205,000 in state government education, and by 148,000 in 
private education.

Employment in information changed little in October (+10,000) but is 122,000 lower than in 
February 2020. 

In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased
by 11 cents to $30.96, following large increases in the prior 6 months. Over the past 12 
months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.9 percent. In October, average hourly 
earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 10 cents to 
$26.26. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.1 hour to
34.7 hours. In manufacturing, the average workweek edged down by 0.1 hour to 40.3 hours, and
overtime edged down by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and 
nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.1 hour to 34.1 hours. 
(See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised up by 117,000, from 
+366,000 to +483,000, and the change for September was revised up by 118,000, from +194,000
to +312,000. With these revisions, employment in August and September combined is 235,000 
higher than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received
from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the 
recalculation of seasonal factors.)






ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER

Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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