U.S. Unemployment Rate Declines to 6.9% in October

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 638,000 in October and the unemployment rate declined to 6.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In October, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade and construction. Employment in government declined. In October, nonfarm employment was below its February level by 10.1 million, or 6.6%.

In October, the unemployment rate declined by one percentage point to 6.9% and the number of unemployed persons fell by 1.5 million to 11.1 million. Both measures have declined for six consecutive months but are nearly twice their February levels (3.5% and 5.8 million, respectively).

Unemployment rates declined among all major worker groups in October. The rate was 6.7% for adult men, 6.5% for adult women, 13.9% for teenagers, 6% percent for white workers, 10.8% for Black workers, 7.6% for Asian workers and 8.8 percent for Hispanic workers.

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff fell by 1.4 million to 3.2 million. This measure is down considerably from the high of 18.1 million in April but is 2.4 million higher than in February. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.7 million in October, changed little over the month but was 2.4 million higher than in February.

In October, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 1.2 million to 3.6 million, accounting for 32.5% of the total unemployed. By contrast, the number of unemployed persons jobless 15 to 26 weeks decreased by 2.3 million to 2.6 million, and the number of persons jobless five to 14 weeks decreased by 457,000 to 2.3 million. The number of persons who were jobless for fewer than five weeks was roughly unchanged at 2.5 million.

The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage points to 61.7% in October. This was 1.7 percentage points below the February level. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.8 percentage points to 57.4% in October but was 3.7 percentage points lower than in February.

In October, the number of persons who usually work full time rose by 1.2 million to 123.6 million, and the number who usually work part-time increased by 1 million to 26.2 million.

The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons increased by 383,000 to 6.7 million in October after declines totaling 4.6 million over the prior five months. 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 group includes persons who usually work full time and persons who usually work part-time.

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job decreased by 539,000 to 6.7 million in October; this measure was 1.7 million higher than in February. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last four weeks or were unavailable to take a job.

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 2 million, was about unchanged in October. These individuals were not in the labor force, 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 four 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 588,000 in October, essentially unchanged from the previous month.

In October, 21.2% of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 22.7% in September. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last four weeks specifically because of the pandemic.

In October, 15.1 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 last four weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 19.4 million in September. Among those who reported in October that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 11.7% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, up from 10.3% in September.

About 3.6 million persons not in the labor force in October were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This is down from 4.5 million in September. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must either be actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)

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