The U.S. Department of Labor released the August employment report this morning, which showed that the nation added only 96,000 jobs, a disappointment to optimistic economists who had yesterday raised their expectations to 125,000 new jobs from 120,000. The Labor Department also reported the unemployment rate at 8.1 percent, down from 8.3 percent. This year has seen an average of 139,000 new jobs per month, compared to 153,000 in 2011. Also, June and July’s numbers were each revised down, from 64,000 to 45,000 for June and 163,000 to 141,000 for July. The lower unemployment rate is attributable to people leaving the workforce.
Employment specific to the construction and extraction industries remained more or less unchanged. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the construction and extraction industries added some 13,000 employees. The number of unemployed in this sector decreased by some 87,000. (These are both in seasonally unadjusted numbers, which I use throughout the rest of this article: 7.157 million people employed in July to 7.170 million employed in August, and 1.056 million unemployed to 969,000. The BLS’s headline report is in seasonally adjusted numbers. According to that metric, the employment in the sector was basically unchanged from July.)
The unemployment rate in the sector is down to 11.9 percent, which is the lowest that it has been since October 2008. On first glance, this lower unemployment seems like good news; in reality, as I reported with the June jobs report, the continued drop in the construction and extraction sector’s unemployment rate is almost entirely due to the shrinking size of the workforce, which is now approximately 2 million people less than at its peak in 2007. You’ll see this in the slide show above, the charts showing the numbers of people employed, unemployed, and the total workforce.