Despite continued depression-like joblessness amongst blacks and Latinos, this morning’s official unemployment report registered the lowest overall jobless rate in five years. According to the Department of Labor, the percentage of those actively looking for work but who could not find it fell to seven percent. The jobless rate for African Americans is almost double that at nearly 13 percent and for Latinos it’s close to 9 percent. Overall the numbers show that the economy continues to inch forward but in a sideways sort of way.
Alongside the difficult black and Latino unemployment numbers is the fact that the November report showed surprising gains across the board. The number of people unemployed for less than five weeks fell by 300,000 and full-time work grew versus part-time work. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of workers are less discouraged about the job market than a year ago and the number of people opting out of job hunting due to frustration has stabilized, though it remains at a near thirty-five year low.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Obamacare appears to be a jobs creator, rather than a jobs destroyer as many have claimed. One of the strongest areas of hiring was in the healthcare sector as companies prepare for an influx of new policyholders. Tens of thousands of health-related jobs were added in November alone.
But in a sign of the economy’s continued fragility, the number of long-term unemployed remains stuck at 4.1 million and there’s not enough improvement in the labor market to entice the additional 6 million people who’ve given up on work to start looking again.
The bottom line is that the jobs report, while encouraging, shows the ongoing disorientation of an economy that’s trying to recover but hasn’t quite figured out how to do so.