September’s total payroll gain of +248,000 was significantly better than expected, especially in the context of total upward revisions of +69,000 to previously-released figures for July and August. While the unemployment rate fell to a new six-year low in September of 5.9%—certainly welcome news—the decline from October 2009’s peak unemployment rate of 10.0% must be viewed in the context of a decline in the labor force participation rate from 65.0% to a 37-year low of 62.7% over the same time period. Even so, other figures released today were consistent with a labor market rebound: average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers (who account for approximately 4/5 of total private non-farm employment) are up by 2.3% year-on-year, ahead of the 1.7% annual increase in consumer prices.
Table 1. Monthly Change in Office-Using Payrolls by Category (000s, SA)
Office-using employment rebounded sharply, with a monthly gain of +105,000 jobs (Table 1 and Chart 1). The strength in office-using jobs has been a major reason for the overall recovery in private sector employment; as shown on Chart 2 on the following page, office employment now comprises more than a quarter of total private sector employment. On the month, the information and financial activity sectors each added +12,000 workers, while professional and business service jobs rose by +81,000. Note, however, the composition of new hires has been uneven. Of the +571,000 increase in professional and business service employment from the end of 2014, more than a quarter of the gains have come from an increase in the number of temporary help workers. In contrast, the number of legal service workers has declined by -1,300 workers over the same time period.
Chart 1. Office-Using Employment and Total Payrolls, September 2007 – September 2014 (Seasonally-Adjusted, 000s)
Chart 2. Office Employment as a Percentage of Total Private Employment and Total Private Employment