Economic Snapshot: Employment sees pre-recession levels

We heard some great news at the end of last week with the national unemployment rate reporting under six percent in September.

The jobless rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 5.9 percent, the lowest level since July 2008. This is a stark contract from the near 10 percent unemployment we saw five years ago in the heat of the recession.

However, the report notes a continued high level of underemployment, with workers stuck in part-time jobs, and weak earnings growth. Involuntary part-time workers were unchanged in September at 7.1 million and average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls changed little this month, at $24.53.


Job openings increased last month with 4.835 million job openings reported on the last business day of August. This is up from 4.605 million in July and is the highest level of openings since January 2001.

August saw 4.6 million hires, down 3.3 percent from July. The number of hires year-over-year was little changed this month. There were 4.4 million separations – which includes quits, layoffs and discharges – last month. This was little changed from July.

The numbers of quits – which are voluntary separations – was also more or less the same at 2.5 million, but the quits level increased over the 12 months ending in August for total nonfarm and government. Total private changed little. Over the year, the number of quits also increased for several industries and in the Midwest region in general. Quits were down for information and the federal government.

ISM non-manufacturing index

The ISM non-manufacturing index slipped slightly in September to 58.6 but marks the 56th consecutive month of non-manufacturing sector growth. This is down from 59.6 in August, which was the index’s highest reading since the survey’s inception in early 2008, but it is still above September 2013 when the index registered at 54.4 percent.

Business activity decreased to 62.9 this month from 65.0. However, employment rose this month to 58.6 from 57.1. Twelve of the 17 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in September, with construction leading the way.

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