Unemployment in the United States discusses the causes and measures of U.S. unemployment and strategies for reducing it. Job creation and unemployment are affected by factors such as economic conditions, global competition, education, automation, and demographics. These factors can affect the number of workers, the duration of unemployment, and wage levels.
Unemployment generally falls during periods of economic prosperity and rises during recessions, creating significant pressure on public finances as tax revenue falls and social safety net costs increase. Government spending and taxation decisions (fiscal policy) and U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate adjustments (monetary policy) are important tools for managing the unemployment rate. There may be an economic trade-off between unemployment and inflation, as policies designed to reduce unemployment can create inflationary pressure, and vice versa. The U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) has a dual mandate to achieve full employment while maintaining a low rate of inflation. The major political parties debate appropriate solutions for improving the job creation rate, with liberals arguing for more government spending and conservatives arguing for lower taxes and less regulation. Polls indicate that Americans believe job creation is the most important government priority, with not sending jobs overseas the primary solution.
Unemployment can be measured in several ways. A person is defined as unemployed in the United States if they are jobless, but have looked for work in the last four weeks and are available for work. People who are neither employed nor defined as unemployed are not included in the labor force calculation. For example, as of September 2017, the unemployment rate in the United States was 4.2% or 6.8 million people, while the government's broader U-6 unemployment rate, which includes the part-time underemployed was 8.3%. Both of these rates were below the November 2007 level that preceded the Great Recession. These figures were calculated with a civilian labor force of approximately 159.6 million people, relative to a U.S. population of approximately 326 million people. The unemployment rates (U-3 and U-6) fell steadily from 2010 to 2018.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a monthly "Employment Situation Summary" with key statistics and commentary. As of June 2018, approximately 128.6 million people in the United States have found full-time work (at least 35 hours a week in total), while 27.0 million worked part-time. There were 4.7 million working part-time for economic reasons, meaning they wanted but could not find full-time work, the lowest level since January 2008.
The BLS reported that in July 2018, there were 94.1 million persons age 16+ outside the labor force. Of these, 88.6 million (94%) did not want a job while 5.5 million (6%) wanted a job. Key reasons persons age 16+ are outside the labor force include retired, disabled or illness, attending school, and caregiving. As of May 2018, there were 126.3 million age 25-54 (prime working age) persons in the U.S. As of April 2018, about 23 million aged 25–54 persons were outside the labor force (7 million men and 16 million women). The Congressional Budget Office reported that as of December 2017, the primary reason for men age 25-54 to be outside the labor force was illness/disability (50% or 3.5 million), while the primary reason for women was due to family care-giving (60% or 9.6 million).
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the U.S. was approximately 2.5 million workers below full employment as of the end of 2015 and 1.6 million at December 31, 2016, mainly due to lower labor force participation. As of May 2018, there were more job openings (6.6 million) than people defined as unemployed (6.0 million) in the U.S.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has defined the basic employment concepts as follows:
Employed persons consist of:
Full-time employed persons work 35 hours or more, considering all jobs, while part-time employed persons work less than 35 hours.
Who is counted as unemployed?
Who is not in the labor force?
During the 1940s, the U.S Department of Labor, specifically the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), began collecting employment information via monthly household surveys. Other data series are available back to 1912. The unemployment rate has varied from as low as 1% during World War I to as high as 25% during the Great Depression. More recently, it reached peaks of 10.8% in November 1982 and 10.0% in October 2009. Unemployment tends to rise during recessions and fall during expansions. From 1948 to 2015, unemployment averaged about 5.8%. There is always some unemployment, with persons changing jobs and new entrants to the labor force searching for jobs. This is referred to as frictional unemployment. For this reason, the Federal Reserve targets the natural rate of unemployment or NAIRU, which was around 5% in 2015. A rate of unemployment below this level would be consistent with rising inflation in theory, as a shortage of workers would bid wages (and thus prices) upward.
Various sources summarize the number of jobs created by Presidential term. The figures may include private or public job creation or combination. The Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database contains the total nonfarm employment level, a measure of private sector job creation. For President Obama, between February 2009 and December 2015, the private sector added a total of 10 million jobs. The Calculated Risk blog also reported the number of private sector jobs created by Presidential term. Over 10 million jobs were created in each of President Clinton's two terms during the 1990s, by far the largest number among recent Presidents. President Reagan averaged over 7 million in each term during the 1980s, while George W. Bush had negative job creation in the 2000s. Each of these Presidents added net public sector (i.e., government) jobs, except President Obama.
There are a variety of measures used to track the state of the U.S. labor market. Each provides insight into the factors affecting employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a "chartbook" displaying the major employment-related variables in the economy. Members of the Federal Reserve also give speeches and Congressional testimony that explain their views of the economy, including the labor market.
As of September 2017, the employment recovery relative to the November 2007 (pre-recession) level was generally complete. Variables such as the unemployment rates (U-3 and U-6) and number of employed have improved beyond their pre-recession levels. However, measures of labor force participation (even among the prime working age group), and the share of long-term unemployed were worse than pre-crisis levels. Further, the mix of jobs has shifted, with a larger share of part-time workers than pre-crisis. For example:
The BLS reported that in 2017, there were approximately 7.5 million persons age 16 and over working multiple jobs, about 4.9% of the population. This was relatively unchanged from 2016. About 4 million (53%) worked a full-time primary job and part-time secondary job.
The U.S. Federal Reserve tracks a variety of labor market metrics, which affect how it sets monetary policy. One "dashboard" includes nine measures, only three of which had returned to their pre-crisis (2007) levels as of June 2014. The Fed also publishes a "Labor market conditions index" that includes a score based on 19 other employment statistics.
Research indicates recovery from financial crises can be protracted relative to typical recessions, with lengthy periods of high unemployment and substandard economic growth. Compared against combined financial crises and recessions in other countries, the U.S. employment recovery following the 2007–2009 recession was relatively fast.
Employment trends can be analyzed by any number of demographic factors individually or in combination, such as age, gender, educational attainment, and race. A major trend underlying the analysis of employment numbers is the aging of the white workforce, which is roughly 70% of the employment total by race as of November 2016. For example, the prime working age (25–54) white population declined by 4.8 million between December 2007 and November 2016, roughly 5%, while non-white populations are increasing. This is a major reason why non-white and foreign-born workers are increasing their share of the employed. However, white prime-age workers have also had larger declines in labor force participation than some non-white groups, for reasons not entirely clear. Such changes may have important political implications.
BLS statistics indicate foreign-born workers have filled jobs dis-proportionally to their share in the population.
There are a variety of domestic, foreign, market and government factors that impact unemployment in the United States. These may be characterized as cyclical (related to the business cycle) or structural (related to underlying economic characteristics) and include, among others:
The U.S. ran historically large annual debt increases from 2008 to 2013, adding over $1 trillion in total national debt annually from fiscal year 2008 to 2012. The deficit expanded primarily due to a severe financial crisis and recession. With a U.S. GDP of approximately $17 trillion, the spending implied by this deficit comprises a significant amount of GDP. Keynesian economics argues that when the economic growth is slow, larger budget deficits are stimulative to the economy. This is one reason why the significant deficit reduction represented by the fiscal cliff was expected to result in a recession.
However, the deficit from 2014 to 2016 was in line with historical average, meaning it was not particularly stimulative. For example, CBO reported in October 2014: "The federal government ran a budget deficit of $486 billion in fiscal year 2014...$195 billion less than the shortfall recorded in fiscal year 2013, and the smallest deficit recorded since 2008. Relative to the size of the economy, that deficit—at an estimated 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—was slightly below the average experienced over the past 40 years, and 2014 was the fifth consecutive year in which the deficit declined as a percentage of GDP since peaking at 9.8 percent in 2009. By CBO's estimate, revenues were about 9 percent higher and outlays were about 1 percent higher in 2014 than they were in the previous fiscal year."
As part of the economic policy of Barack Obama, the United States Congress funded approximately $800 billion in spending and tax cuts via the February 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate the economy. Monthly job losses began slowing shortly thereafter. By March 2010, employment again began to rise. From March 2010 to September 2012, over 4.3 million jobs were added, with consecutive months of employment increases from October 2010 to December 2015. As of December 2015, employment of 143.2 million was 4.9 million above the pre-crisis peak in January 2008 of 138.3 million.
The U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) has a dual mandate to achieve full employment while maintaining a low rate of inflation. U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate adjustments (monetary policy) are important tools for managing the unemployment rate. There may be an economic trade-off between unemployment and inflation, as policies designed to reduce unemployment can create inflationary pressure, and vice versa. Debates regarding monetary policy during 2014–2015 centered on the timing and extent of interest rate increases, as a near-zero interest rate target had remained in place since the 2007–2009 recession. Ultimately, the Fed decided to raise interest rates marginally in December 2015. The Fed describes the type of labor market analyses it performs in making interest rate decisions in the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, its policy governing body, among other channels.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has taken significant action to stimulate the economy after the 2007–2009 recession. The Fed expanded its balance sheet significantly from 2008 to 2014, meaning it essentially "printed money" to purchase large quantities of mortgage-backed securities and U.S. treasury bonds. This bids up bond prices, helping keep interest rates low, to encourage companies to borrow and invest and people to buy homes. It planned to end its quantitative easing in October 2014 but was undecided on when it might raise interest rates from near record lows. The Fed also tied its actions to its outlook for unemployment and inflation for the first time in December 2012.
Liberals typically argue for government action or partnership with the private sector to improve job creation. Typical proposals involve stimulus spending on infrastructure construction, clean energy investment, unemployment compensation, educational loan assistance, and retraining programs. Liberals historically supported labor unions and protectionist trade policies. Liberals tend to be less concerned with budget deficits and debt and have a higher tolerance for inflation or currency devaluation to improve trade competitiveness, as a weaker currency makes exports relatively less expensive. During recessions, liberals generally advocate solutions based on Keynesian economics, which argues for additional government spending when the private sector is unable or unwilling to support sufficient levels of economic growth.
Fiscal Conservatives typically argue for market-based solutions, with less government restriction of the private sector. Conservatives tend to oppose stimulus spending or bailouts, letting market determine success and failure. Typical proposals involve deregulation and income tax rate reduction. Conservatives historically have opposed labor unions and encouraged free-trade agreements. Fiscal conservatives express concern that higher budget deficits and debt damage confidence, reducing investment and spending. Conservatives argue for policies that reduce or lower inflation. Conservatives generally advocate supply-side economics.
The affluent are much less inclined than other groups of Americans to support an active role for government in addressing high unemployment. Only 19% of the wealthy say that Washington should insure that everyone who wants to work can find a job, but 68% of the general public support that proposition. Similarly, only 8% of the rich say that the federal government should provide jobs for everyone able and willing to work who cannot find a job in private employment, but 53% of the general public thinks it should. A September 2012 survey by The Economist found those earning over $100,000 annually were twice as likely to name the budget deficit as the most important issue in deciding how they would vote than middle- or lower-income respondents. Among the general public, about 40% say unemployment is the most important issue while 25% say that the budget deficit is.
A March 2011 Gallup poll reported: "One in four Americans say the best way to create more jobs in the U.S. is to keep manufacturing in this country and stop sending work overseas. Americans also suggest creating jobs by increasing infrastructure work, lowering taxes, helping small businesses, and reducing government regulation." Further, Gallup reported that: "Americans consistently say that jobs and the economy are the most important problems facing the country, with 26% citing jobs specifically as the nation's most important problem in March." Republicans and Democrats agreed that bringing the jobs home was the number one solution approach, but differed on other poll questions. Republicans next highest ranked items were lowering taxes and reducing regulation, while Democrats preferred infrastructure stimulus and more help for small businesses.
Further, U.S. sentiment on free trade has been turning more negative. An October 2010 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that: "[M]ore than half of those surveyed, 53%, said free-trade agreements have hurt the U.S. That is up from 46% three years ago and 32% in 1999." Among those earning $75,000 or more, 50% now say free-trade pacts have hurt the U.S., up from 24% who said the same in 1999. Across party lines, income, and job type, 76–95% of Americans surveyed agreed that "outsourcing of production and manufacturing work to foreign countries is a reason the U.S. economy is struggling and more people aren't being hired".
The Pew Center reported poll results in August 2012: "Fully 85% of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living. Of those who feel this way, 62% say "a lot" of the blame lies with Congress, while 54% say the same about banks and financial institutions, 47% about large corporations, 44% about the Bush administration, 39% about foreign competition and 34% about the Obama administration."
The debate around the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the approximately $800 billion stimulus bill passed due to the subprime mortgage crisis, highlighted these views. Democrats generally advocated the liberal position and Republicans advocated the conservative position. Republican pressure reduced the overall size of the stimulus while increasing the ratio of tax cuts in the law.
These historical positions were also expressed during the debate around the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which authorized the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an approximately $700 billion bailout package (later reduced to $430 billion) for the banking industry. The initial attempt to pass the bill failed in the House of Representatives due primarily to Republican opposition. Following a significant drop in the stock market and pressure from a variety of sources, a second vote passed the bill in the House.
Senator Dick Durbin proposed a bill in 2010 called the "Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act" that would have reduced tax advantages from relocating U.S. plants abroad and limited the ability to defer profits earned overseas. However, the bill was stalled in the Senate primarily due to Republican opposition. It was supported by the AFL-CIO but opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Congressional Research Service summarized the bill as follows: "Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act—Amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) exempt from employment taxes for a 24-month period employers who hire an employee who replaces another employee who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and who performs similar duties overseas; (2) deny any tax deduction, deduction for loss, or tax credit for the cost of an American jobs offshoring transaction (defined as any transaction in which a taxpayer reduces or eliminates the operation of a trade or business in connection with the start-up or expansion of such trade or business outside the United States); and (3) eliminate the deferral of tax on income of a controlled foreign corporation attributable to property imported into the United States by such corporation or a related person, except for property exported before substantial use in the United States and for agricultural commodities not grown in the United States in commercially marketable quantities."
President Barack Obama proposed the American Jobs Act in September 2011, which included a variety of tax cuts and spending programs to stimulate job creation. The White House provided a fact sheet which summarized the key provisions of the $447 billion bill. However, neither the House nor the Senate has passed the legislation as of December 2012. President Obama stated in October 2011: "In the coming days, members of Congress will have to take a stand on whether they believe we should put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back on the job...They'll get a vote on whether they believe we should protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle-class Americans, or whether we should protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires."
During 2012, there was significant debate regarding approximately $560 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in 2013, which would reduce the 2013 budget deficit roughly in half. Critics argued that with an employment crisis, such fiscal austerity was premature and misguided. The Congressional Budget Office projected that such sharp deficit reduction would likely cause the U.S. to enter recession in 2013, with the unemployment rate rising to 9% versus approximately 8% in 2012, costing over 1 million jobs. The fiscal cliff was partially addressed by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
It is unclear whether lowering marginal income tax rates boosts job growth, or whether increasing tax rates slows job creation. This is due to many other variables that impact job creation. Economic theory suggests that (other things equal) tax cuts are a form of stimulus (they increase the budget deficit) and therefore create jobs, much like spending. However, tax cuts as a rule have less impact per additional deficit dollar than spending, as a portion of tax cuts can be saved rather than spent. Since income taxes are primarily paid by higher income taxpayers (the top 1% pay less than 40% of it) and these taxpayers tend to save a higher portion of any incremental dollars returned to them via tax cuts than lower income taxpayers, income tax cuts are a less effective form of stimulus than payroll tax cuts, infrastructure investment, and unemployment compensation.
One study indicated that tax cuts do create employment growth, particularly tax cuts for the lower earners. However, the historical record indicates that marginal income tax rate changes have little impact on job creation, economic growth or employment.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) wrote in March 2009: "Small business employment rose by an average of 2.3 percent (756,000 jobs) per year during the Clinton years, when tax rates for high-income filers were set at very similar levels to those that would be reinstated under President Obama's budget. But during the Bush years, when the rates were lower, employment rose by just 1.0 percent (367,000 jobs)." CBPP reported in September 2011 that both employment and GDP grew faster in the seven-year period following President Clinton's income tax rate increase of 1993, than a similar period after the Bush tax cuts of 2001.
Conservatives typically argue for lower U.S. tax income rates, arguing that it would encourage companies to hire more workers. Liberals have proposed legislation to tax corporations that offshore jobs and to limit corporate tax expenditures.
U.S. corporate after-tax profits were at record levels during 2012 while corporate tax revenue was below its historical average relative to GDP. For example, U.S. corporate after-tax profits were at record levels during the third quarter of 2012, at an annualized $1.75 trillion. U.S. corporations paid approximately 1.2% GDP in taxes during 2011. This was below the 2.7% GDP level in 2007 pre-crisis and below the 1.8% historical average for the 1990–2011 period. In comparing corporate taxes, the Congressional Budget Office found in 2005 that the top statutory tax rate was the third highest among OECD countries behind Japan and Germany. However, the U.S. ranked 27th lowest of 30 OECD countries in its collection of corporate taxes relative to GDP, at 1.8% vs. the average 2.5%.
A variety of options for creating jobs exist, but these are strongly debated and often have tradeoffs in terms of additional government debt, adverse environmental impact, and impact on corporate profitability. Examples include infrastructure investment, tax reform, healthcare cost reduction, energy policy and carbon price certainty, reducing the cost to hire employees, education and training, deregulation, and trade policy. Authors Bittle & Johnson of Public agenda explained the pros and cons of 14 job creation arguments frequently discussed, several of which are summarized below by topic. These are hotly debated by experts from across the political spectrum.
Many experts advocate infrastructure investment, such as building roads and bridges and upgrading the electricity grid. Such investments have historically created or sustained millions of jobs, with the offset to higher state and federal budget deficits. In the wake of the 2008–2009 recession, there were over 2 million fewer employed housing construction workers. The American Society of Civil Engineers rated U.S. infrastructure a "D+" on their scorecard for 2013, identifying an estimated $3.6 trillion in investment ideas by 2020.
CBO estimated in November 2011 that increased investment in infrastructure would create between 1 and 6 jobs per $1 million invested; in other words, a $100 billion investment would generate between 100,000 and 600,000 additional jobs. President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act in 2011, which included infrastructure investment and tax breaks offset by tax increases on high income earners. However, it did not receive sufficient support in the Senate to receive a floor vote. During late 2015, the House and Senate, in rare bipartisan form, passed the largest infrastructure package in a decade, costing $305 billion over five years, less than the $478 billion in Obama's initial request. He signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act into law in December 2015.
Lowering the costs of workers also encourages employers to hire more. This can be done via reducing existing Social Security or Medicare payroll taxes or by specific tax incentives for hiring additional workers. CBO estimated in 2011 that reducing employers' payroll taxes (especially if limited to firms that increase their payroll), increasing aid to the unemployed, and providing additional refundable tax credits to lower-income households, would generate more jobs per dollar of investment than infrastructure.
President Obama reduced the Social Security payroll tax on workers during the 2011–2012 period, which added an estimated $100 billion to the deficit while leaving these funds with consumers to spend. The U.S. corporate tax rate is among the highest in the world, although U.S. corporations pay among the lowest amount relative to GDP due to loopholes. Reducing the rate and eliminating loopholes may make U.S. businesses more competitive, but may also add to the deficit. The Tax Policy Center estimated during 2012 that reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% would add $1 trillion to the debt over a decade, for example.
Businesses are faced with paying the significant and rising healthcare costs of their employees. Many other countries do not burden businesses, but instead tax workers who pay the government for their healthcare. This significantly reduces the cost of hiring and maintaining the work force.
Various studies place the cost of environmental regulations in the thousands of dollars per employee. Americans are split on whether protecting the environment or economic growth is a higher priority. Regulations that would add costs to petroleum and coal may slow the economy, although they would provide incentives for clean energy investment by addressing regulatory uncertainty regarding the price of carbon.
President Obama advocated a series of clean energy policies during June 2013. These included: Reducing carbon pollution from power plants; Continue expanding usage of clean energy; raising fuel economy standards; and energy conservation through more energy-efficient homes and businesses.
Advocates of raising the minimum wage assert this would provide households with more money to spend, while opponents recognize the impact this has on businesses', especially small businesses', ability to pay additional workers. Critics argue raising employment costs deters hiring. During 2009, the minimum wage was $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 per year, below poverty level for some families. The New York Times editorial board wrote in August 2013: "As measured by the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, low-paid work in America is lower paid today than at any time in modern memory. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation or average wages over the past nearly 50 years, it would be about $10 an hour; if it had kept pace with the growth in average labor productivity, it would be about $17 an hour."
President Obama advocated raising the minimum wage during February 2013: "The President is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 in stages by the end of 2015 and index it to inflation thereafter, which would directly boost wages for 15 million workers and reduce poverty and inequality...A range of economic studies show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment. In fact, leading economists like Lawrence Katz, Richard Freeman, and Laura Tyson and businesses like Costco, Wal-Mart, and Stride Rite have supported past increases to the minimum wage, in part because increasing worker productivity and purchasing power for consumers will also help the overall economy."
The Economist wrote in December 2013: "A minimum wage, providing it is not set too high, could thus boost pay with no ill effects on jobs...America's federal minimum wage, at 38% of median income, is one of the rich world's lowest. Some studies find no harm to employment from federal or state minimum wages, others see a small one, but none finds any serious damage."
The U.S. minimum wage was last raised to $7.25 per hour in July 2009. As of December 2013, there were 21 states with minimum wages above the Federal minimum, with the State of Washington the highest at $9.32. Ten states index their minimum wage to inflation.
The CBO reported in February 2014 that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour between 2014 and 2016 would reduce employment by an estimated 500,000 jobs, while about 16.5 million workers would have higher pay. A smaller increase to $9.00 per hour would reduce employment by 100,000, while about 7.6 million workers would have higher pay.
Regulatory costs on business start-ups and going concerns are significant. Requiring laws to have sunset provisions (end-dates) would help ensure only worthwhile regulations are renewed. New businesses account for about one-fifth of new jobs added. However, the number of new businesses starting each year dropped by 17% after the recession. Inc. magazine published 16 ideas to encourage new startups, including cutting red tape, approving micro-loans, allowing more immigration, and addressing tax uncertainty.
Education policy reform could make higher education more affordable and more attuned to job needs. Unemployment is considerably lower for those with a college education. However, college is increasingly unaffordable. Providing loans contingent on degrees focused on fields with worker shortages such as healthcare and accounting would address structural workforce imbalances (i.e., a skills mismatch). Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stated in 2014: "Public funding of education is another way that governments can help offset the advantages some households have in resources available for children. One of the most consequential examples is early childhood education. Research shows that children from lower-income households who get good-quality pre-Kindergarten education are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as hold a job and have higher earnings, and they are less likely to be incarcerated or receive public assistance."
Without the development of vastly different and innovative training methods and strategies, unemployment will rise in both blue collar and white collar sections of the US labor force due to the use of AI and other new technologies in increasingly automated workplaces. Latham and Humbert (2018) stated that when technological advances allow for an automated replacement of a position's essential job functions, the worker will be displaced, as the worker's skill set has become obsolete. The essential job functions are a critical element when determining the likelihood a job will be negatively impacted by automation or AI. “Skills that can easily be standardized, codified, or routinized are most likely to be automated.” (Latham & Humberd, 2018, p. 2). To counter these trends emphasis must be placed on achieving higher return on investment from the US Department of Education. “Curriculums-from grammar school to college-should evolve to focus less on memorizing facts and more on creativity and complex communication. Vocational schools should do a better job of fostering problem-solving skills and helping students work alongside robots.” (Orszag & Tanenhaus, 2015, p. 14). By refocusing the education system to foster creativity as well as problem solving and critical thinking skills, people entering the US workforce would have valuable and sought after skills. People in the US need to evaluate if as a nation, enough is being done to ensure young people entering the workforce and the current workforce have the necessary skills to weather this massive transition to a more automated world.
The union movement has declined considerably, one factor contributing to more income inequality and off-shoring. Reinvigorating the labor movement could help create more higher-paying jobs, shifting some of the economic pie back to workers from owners. However, by raising employment costs, employers may choose to hire fewer workers.[A]
Creating a level playing field with trading partners could help create more jobs in the U.S. Wage and living standard differentials and currency manipulation can make "free trade" something other than "fair trade." Requiring countries to allow their currencies to float freely on international markets would reduce significant trade deficits, adding jobs in developed countries such as the U.S. and Western Europe.
CBO reported several options for addressing long-term unemployment during February 2012. Two short-term options included policies to: 1) Reduce the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and 2) Tax policies targeted towards people most likely to spend the additional income, mainly those with lower income. Over the long-run, structural reforms such as programs to facilitate re-training workers or education assistance would be helpful.
President Obama established the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in 2009. The Council released an interim report with a series of recommendations in October 2011. The report included five major initiatives to increase employment while improving competitiveness:
Analyzing the true state of the U.S. labor market is very complex and a challenge for leading economists, who may arrive at different conclusions. For example, the main gauge, the unemployment rate, can be falling (a positive sign) while the labor force participation rate is falling as well (a negative sign). Further, the reasons for persons leaving the labor force may not be clear, such as aging (more people retiring) or because they are discouraged and have stopped looking for work. The extent to which persons are not fully utilizing their skills is also difficult to determine when measuring the level of underemployment.
A rough comparison of September 2014 (when the unemployment rate was 5.9%) versus October 2009 (when the unemployment rate peaked at 10.0%) helps illustrate the analytical challenge. The civilian population increased by roughly 10 million during that time, with the labor force increasing by about 2 million and those not in the labor force increasing by about 8 million. However, the 2 million increase in the labor force represents the net of an 8 million increase in those employed, partially offset by a 6 million decline in those unemployed. So is the primary cause of improvement in the unemployment rate due to: a) increased employment of 8 million; or b) the increase in those not in the workforce, also 8 million? Did the 6 million fewer unemployed obtain jobs or leave the workforce?
CBO issued a report in February 2014 analyzing the causes for the slow labor market recovery following the 2007–2009 recession. CBO listed several major causes:
One method of analyzing the impact of recessions on employment is to measure the period of time it takes to return to the pre-recession employment peak. By this measure, the 2008–2009 recession was considerably worse than the five other U.S. recessions from 1970 to present. By May 2013, U.S. employment had reached 98% of its pre-recession peak after approximately 60 months. Employment recovery following a combined recession and financial crisis tends to be much longer than a typical recession. For example, it took Norway 8.5 years to return to its pre-recession peak employment after its 1987 financial crisis and it took Sweden 17.8 years after its 1991 financial crisis. The U.S. is recovering considerably faster than either of these countries.
The ratio of full-time workers was 86.5% in January 1968 and hit a historical low of 79.9% in January 2010. There is a long-term trend of gradual reduction in the share of full-time workers since 1970, with recessions resulting in a decline in the full-time share of the workforce faster than the overall trend, with partial reversal during recovery periods. For example, as a result of the 2007–2009 recession, the ratio of full-time employed to total employed fell from 83.1% in December 2007 to a trough of 79.9% in January 2010, before steadily rising to 81.6% by April 2016. Stated another way, the share of part-time employed to total employed rose from 16.9% in December 2007 to a peak of 20.1% in January 2010, before steadily falling to 18.4% in April 2016.
There is a trend towards more workers in alternative (part-time or contract) work arrangements rather than full-time; the percentage of workers in such arrangements rose from 10.1% in 2005 to 15.8% in late 2015. This implies all of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy (9.1 million jobs between 2005 and 2015) occurred in alternative work arrangements, while the number in traditional jobs slightly declined.
Estimates vary for the number of jobs that must be created to absorb the inflow of persons into the labor force, to maintain a given rate of unemployment. This number is significantly affected by demographics and population growth. For example, economist Laura D'Andrea Tyson estimated this figure at 125,000 jobs per month during 2011.
Economist Paul Krugman estimated it around 90,000 during 2012, mentioning also it used to be higher. One method of calculating this figure follows, using data as of September 2012: U.S. population 314,484,000 x 0.90% annual population growth x 63% of population is working age x 63% work force participation rate / 12 months per year = 93,614 jobs/month. This approximates the Krugman figure.
Wells Fargo economists estimated the figure around 150,000 in January 2013: "Over the past three months, labor force participation has averaged 63.7 percent, the same as the average for 2012. If the participation rate holds steady, how many new jobs are needed to lower the unemployment rate? The steady employment gains in recent months suggest a rough answer. The unemployment rate has been 7.9 percent, 7.8 percent and 7.8 percent for the past three months, while the labor force participation rate has been 63.8 percent, 63.6 percent and 63.6 percent. Meanwhile, job gains have averaged 151,000. Therefore, it appears that the magic number is something above 151,000 jobs per month to lower the unemployment rate." Reuters reported a figure of 250,000 in February 2013, stating sustained job creation at this level would be needed to "significantly reduce the ranks of unemployed."
Federal Reserve analysts estimated this figure around 80,000 in June 2013: "According to our analysis, job growth of more than about 80,000 jobs per month would put downward pressure on the unemployment rate, down significantly from 150,000 to 200,000 during the 1980s and 1990s. We expect this trend to fall to around 35,000 jobs per month from 2016 through the remainder of the decade."
During the 41 months from January 2010 to May 2013, there were 19 months where the unemployment rate declined. On average, 179,000 jobs were created in those months. The median job creation during those months was 166,000.
The U.S. civilian labor force was approximately 155 million people during October 2012. This was the world's third largest, behind China (795.5 million) and India (487.6 million). The entire European Union employed 228.3 million.
The number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) increased from 7.1 million in December 2007 to 8.7 million in April 2012, a 22% increase. Recipients are excluded from the labor force. Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley estimated this explained as much as 0.5 of the 2.0 percentage point decline in the U.S. labor-force participation rate during the period.
Unemployment can have adverse health effects. One study indicated that a 1% increase in the unemployment rate can increase mortality among working-aged males by 6%. Similar effects were not noted for women or the elderly, who had lower workforce attachment. The mortality increase was mainly driven by circulatory health issues (e.g., heart attacks). Another study concluded that: "Losing a job because of an establishment closure increased the odds of fair or poor health by 54%, and among respondents with no preexisting health conditions, it increased the odds of a new likely health condition by 83%. This suggests that there are true health costs to job loss, beyond sicker people being more likely to lose their jobs." Extended job loss can add the equivalent of ten years to a persons age.
Studies have also indicated that worsening economic conditions can be associated with lower mortality across the entire economy, with slightly lower mortality in the much larger employed group offsetting higher mortality in the unemployed group. For example, recessions might include fewer drivers on the road, reducing traffic fatalities and pollution.
CBO estimated in December 2015 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known colloquially as "Obamacare") would reduce the labor supply by approximately 2 million full-time worker equivalents (measured as a combination of persons and hours worked) by 2025, relative to a baseline without the law. This is driven by the law's health insurance coverage expansions (e.g., subsidies and Medicaid expansion) plus taxes and penalties. With access to individual marketplaces, fewer persons are dependent on health insurance offered by employers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on October 24, 2017 its projections of job growth by industry and job type over the 2016–2026 period. Healthcare was the industry expected to add the most jobs, driven by demand from an aging population. The top three occupations were: personal care aides with 754,000 jobs added or a 37% increase; home health aids with 425,600 or 47%; and software developers at 253,400 or 30.5%.
BLS also reported that: "About 9 out of 10 new jobs are projected to be added in the service-providing sector from 2016 to 2026, resulting in more than 10.5 million new jobs, or 0.8 percent annual growth. The goods-producing sector is expected to increase by 219,000 jobs, growing at a rate of 0.1 percent per year over the projections decade." BLS predicted that manufacturing jobs would decline by over 700,000 over that period.
U.S. employment statistics are reported by government and private primary sources monthly, which are widely quoted in the news media. These sources use a variety of sampling techniques that yield different measures.
Several secondary sources also interpret the primary data released.
The FRED database contains a variety of employment statistics organized as data series. It can be used to generate charts or download historical information. Data series include labor force, employment, unemployment, labor force participation, etc. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also releases employment statistics. Some popular data series include:
Job creation in the U.S. is typically measured by changes in the "Total Non-Farm" employees.
FRED has gathered many of the employment statistics on one page for easy access:
The Congressional Budget Office provides an unemployment rate forecast in its long term budget outlook. During August 2012, it projected that the unemployment rate would be 8.8% in 2013 and 8.7% in 2014. CBO projected the rate would then begin falling steadily to 5.5% by 2018 and remain around that level through 2022. This forecast assumes annual real GDP growth will exceed 3% between 2014 and 2018. During December 2012, Wells Fargo Economics forecast that the unemployment rate would be 7.8% in 2013 and 7.6% in 2014. This forecast assumes real GDP growth would be 1.4% in 2013 and 2.5% in 2014.
The Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) prepares an annual report on those petitioning for trade adjustment assistance, due to jobs lost from international trade. This represents a fraction of jobs actually off-shored and does not include jobs that are placed overseas initially or the collateral impact on surrounding businesses when, for example, a manufacturing plant moves overseas. During 2011, there were 98,379 workers covered by petitions filed with ETA. The figure was 280,873 in 2010, 201,053 in 2009 and 126,633 in 2008.
A Memory of Two Mondays is a one-act play by Arthur Miller. Based on Miller's own experiences, the play focuses on a group of desperate workers earning their livings in a Brooklyn automobile parts warehouse during the Great Depression in the 1930s, a time of 25 percent unemployment in the United States. Concentrating more on character than plot, it explores the dreams of a young man yearning for a college education in the midst of people stumbling through the workday in a haze of hopelessness and despondency. Three of the characters in the story have severe problems with alcoholism.
Paired with the original one-act version of A View from the Bridge, the first Broadway production, directed by Martin Ritt, opened on September 29, 1955, at the Coronet Theatre, where it ran for 149 performances. The cast included Van Heflin, J. Carrol Naish, Jack Warden, Eileen Heckart, and Richard Davalos, who won the Theatre World Award for his performance.
In 1959, Miller adapted the play for an ITV broadcast starring Alan Bates.Miller adapted the play for a 1971 television movie directed by Paul Bogart, A Memory of Two Mondays.
After seven previews, a Broadway revival directed by Arvin Brown opened on January 26, 1976, at the Playhouse Theatre where, paired this time with 27 Wagons Full of Cotton by Tennessee Williams, it ran for 67 performances. The cast included Thomas Hulce, John Lithgow, Tony Musante, Joe Grifasi, and Meryl Streep.Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a unit of the United States Department of Labor. It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics and serves as a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System. The BLS is a governmental statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, business, and labor representatives. The BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the United States Department of Labor, and conducts research into how much families need to earn to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living.The BLS data must satisfy a number of criteria, including relevance to current social and economic issues, timeliness in reflecting today's rapidly changing economic conditions, accuracy and consistently high statistical quality, impartiality in both subject matter and presentation, and accessibility to all. To avoid the appearance of partiality, the dates of major data releases are scheduled more than a year in advance, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget.California State Relief Administration
The California State Relief Administration (SRA), created in 1935, was the successor to the State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA), created in 1933. The agencies were responsible for distributing state and federal funds to improve conditions in California during the Great Depression, and administered unemployment relief.Current Population Survey
The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of about 60,000 U.S. households conducted by the United States Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS uses the data to publish reports early each month called the Employment Situation. This report provides estimates of the unemployment rate and the numbers of employed and unemployed people in the United States based on the CPS. A readable Employment Situation Summary is provided monthly. Annual estimates include employment and unemployment in large metropolitan areas. Researchers can use some CPS microdata to investigate these or other topics.
The survey asks about the employment status of each member of the household 15 years of age or older as of the calendar week containing the 12th day of the month. Based on responses to questions on work and job search activities, each person 16 years and over in a sample household is classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force.
The CPS began in 1940, and responsibility for conducting the CPS was given to the Census Bureau in 1942. In 1994 the CPS was redesigned. CPS is a survey that is: employment-focused, enumerator-conducted, continuous, and cross-sectional. The BLS increased the sample size by 10,000 as of July 2001. The sample represents the civilian noninstitutional population.Effective unemployment rate
The unemployment rate announced by United States Department of Labor does not include those too discouraged to look for work any longer or those part-time workers who are working fewer hours than they would like. By adding these two groups to the unemployment rate, the rate becomes the effective unemployment rate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States keeps an alternative unemployment rate indicator similar to the effective unemployment rate called U6.Employment Division v. Smith
Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), is a United States Supreme Court case that held that the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. Although states have the power to accommodate otherwise illegal acts performed in pursuit of religious beliefs, they are not required to do so.Federal Unemployment Tax Act
The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (or FUTA, I.R.C. ch. 23) is a United States federal law that imposes a federal employer tax used to help fund state workforce agencies. Employers report this tax by filing an annual Form 940 with the Internal Revenue Service. In some cases, the employer is required to pay the tax in installments during the tax year.
FUTA covers a federal share of the costs of administering the unemployment insurance (UI) and job service programs in every state. In addition, FUTA pays one-half of the cost of extended unemployment benefits (during periods of high unemployment) and provides for a fund from which states may borrow, if necessary, to pay benefits.Ford Hunger March
The Ford Hunger March, sometimes called the Ford Massacre, was a demonstration on March 7, 1932 in the United States by unemployed auto workers in Detroit, Michigan; it took place during the Great Depression. The march started in Detroit and ended in Dearborn, Michigan, in a confrontation in which four workers were shot to death by the Dearborn Police Department and security guards employed by the Ford Motor Company. More than 60 workers were injured, many by gunshot wounds. Three months later, a fifth worker died of his injuries.
The march was organized by the Unemployed Councils. It was an important part of a chain of events that resulted in the unionization of the U.S. auto industry.Humphrey–Hawkins Full Employment Act
The Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act (known informally as the Humphrey–Hawkins Full Employment Act) is an act of legislation by the United States government.Jobless recovery
A jobless recovery or jobless growth is an economic phenomenon in which a macroeconomy experiences growth while maintaining or decreasing its level of employment. The term was coined by the economist Nick Perna in the early 1990s.List of U.S. states and territories by unemployment rate
The list of U.S. states and territories by unemployment rate compares the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates by state and territory, sortable by name, rate, and change. Data are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment publication.
While the non-seasonally adjusted data reflects the actual unemployment rate, the seasonally adjusted data removes time from the equation.NAFTA's effect on United States employment
North American Free Trade Agreement's impact on United States employment has been the object of ongoing debate since the 1994 inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. NAFTA's proponents believe that more jobs were ultimately created in the USA. Opponents see the agreements as having been costly to well-paying American jobs.President's Organization for Unemployment Relief
The President's Organization for Unemployment Relief (originally known as the President's Emergency Committee for Employment) was a government organization created on August 19, 1931 by United States President Herbert Hoover. Its commission was to help U.S. citizens who lost their jobs due to the Great Depression. Its purpose was to coordinate local welfare agencies, without spending government money. The program ended on June 30, 1932. Its ending was because the government was not willing to help the agencies through the aid of money and this therefore led to them becoming simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem of the Great Depression.
Following its creation, Martin Carmody, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, wrote to Hoover pledging the services of the Order. Carmody had already encouraged the 2,600 councils to have "strong and active employment committees." By the end of July 1931, a total a 43,128 unemployed people had been placed into jobs, in addition to those placements made by local councils who were working under the auspices of other organizations. In less than two years, the Order would provide more than 100,000 jobs. In October of that year, Hoover appointed Carmody to the Organization for Unemployment Relief.The Big One (film)
The Big One is a 1997 documentary film written and directed by documentarian filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, and released by Miramax Films. The film documents Moore during his tour promoting his 1996 book Downsize This! around the United States. Through the 47 towns he visits, Moore discovers and describes American economic failings and the fear of unemployment of American workers.Ticket to Work
The United States Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program is the centerpiece of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. This voluntary program is designed to help people who are receiving disability benefits from Social Security "find good jobs, good careers, and better self-supporting futures." To be eligible for the program people must be ages 18 through 64 and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The Ticket program provides these beneficiaries more choices for receiving employment and other support services they need to reach their work goal.Participants in this program may assign their Ticket to an Employment Network (EN) or receive services from the public Vocational Rehabilitation Agency in the State, in which they reside. Whichever provider they choose, beneficiaries will receive career counseling, job placement, and ongoing employment support services. Other services, such as transportation and workplace accommodation assistance may be available depending on the offerings of individual providers and the needs of beneficiaries. An EN works with each beneficiary to identify employment goals and write an Individual Work Plan (IWP) that both the beneficiary and EN agree upon.Unemployment Action Center
The Unemployment Action Center, sometimes abbreviated as UAC, is a non-profit organization run by students of nine law schools in the New York City area. The purpose of UAC is to provide free legal representation to people who were denied unemployment benefits by the New York State Department of Labor, or against appeals by employers from an initial determination granting unemployment insurance.
UAC was founded in 1981 as a clinical program at New York University School of Law and now adds over 100 participants each year. Law student volunteers have represented thousands of claimants, and contribute their efforts without compensation.Unemployment Trust Fund
The Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) is composed of 59 accounts in the United States Treasury related to unemployment insurance program. Specifically, there are 53 state accounts, 4 federal accounts, and 2 accounts in connection with Railroad Retirement Board.Unemployment extension
Unemployment extension occurs when regular unemployment benefits are exhausted and extended for additional weeks. Unemployment extensions are created by passing new legislation at the federal level, often referred to as an "unemployment extension bill." This new legislation is introduced and passed during times of high or above average unemployment rates. Unemployment extensions are set during a date range in order to estimate their federal cost. After expiration, the unemployment data is re-evaluated, and new legislation may be proposed and passed to further extend them.Workforce
The workforce or labour force (labor force in American English; see spelling differences) is the labour pool in employment. It is generally used to describe those working for a single company or industry, but can also apply to a geographic region like a city, state, or country. Within a company, its value can be labelled as its "Workforce in Place". The workforce of a country includes both the employed and the unemployed. The labour force participation rate, LFPR (or economic activity rate, EAR), is the ratio between the labour force and the overall size of their cohort (national population of the same age range). The term generally excludes the employers or management, and can imply those involved in manual labour. It may also mean all those who are available for work.
United States articles