Job Market Update: November 2015 

While September's numbers were underwhelming, October's jobs gains have exceeded expectations. In fact, about 40,000 more jobs were added than the 12-month average of 230,000. While the unemployment rate remained mostly unchanged at 5.0 percent, it’s still the lowest since April 2008, which is good news as we move toward the holiday season. This jobs boost comes after a steady decline in job gains since July, once again increasing the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. Revisions to August and September reports are +17,000 and -5,000, respectively, bringing the net increase from the past two months' revisions to +12,000 jobs.

With the unemployment rate reaching 5.0 percent, the White House released information concerning a “breakeven rate" of employment growth to keep the unemployment rate constant at about 5.0 percent. White House economists state that to break even, the economy needs to add an average of 77,000 jobs per month. After getting used to seeing an average of 230,000 jobs added monthly, these economist are hoping to prepare Americans for a steady, but slower rate of growth, stating that “as the unemployment rate gets closer to normalizing, the pace of job growth would be expected to start normalizing as well—consistent with the pattern in past business cycles." They also point out that, while the long-term unemployment rate and the number of involuntary part-time workers have improved, they are still not where they were pre-recession. “There has been substantial recovery in these broader labor market measures, but the outsized deterioration in the Great Recession is still not fully healed."

While the number of jobs added is positive, the unemployment rate (5.0 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (7.9 million) remained relatively stagnant month-over-month. Year-over-year, however, the number of unemployed persons is down by 1.1 million. The following numbers remain essentially unchanged month-over-month:

  • Long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27+ weeks) – 2.1 million, little changed since June
  • Civilian labor force participation rate – 62.4 percent
  • Employment-population ratio – 59.3 percent, little changed over the past year

The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers) decreased by 269,000 to 5.8 million in October, and the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force (jobless people who wanted and had looked for a job in the past 12 months) has fallen by 276,000 over the past year. Both are good indicators of improvements to “underemployment."

Last month the number of discouraged workers (persons not currently looking for work as they think there are no jobs available) increased by 11,000, and while the number hasn't fallen, it hasn't risen anymore either.

After a drop in the average hourly earnings for all employees last month, October saw a 9-cent increase, bringing the average to $25.20. Over the past year the average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent, showing steady wage increases in the US. The average hourly wage for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees also rose by 9 cents to $21.18.
Sectors most responsible for the increased jobs gains are: professional and business services, health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction. See below for numbers:

  • Professional and business services added 78,000 jobs (its 12-month average has been +52,000).
  • Health care added 45,000 jobs, bringing its 2015 total to +495,000 jobs.
  • Retail trade added 44,000 jobs (its 12-month average has been +25,000).
  • Food services and drinking places added 42,000 jobs, bringing its 2015 total to +368,000 jobs.
  • Mining jobs dropped by 5,000 in October, losing a total of 109,000 jobs since December 2014.
  • Construction added 31,000 jobs after seeing little change in recent months.
  • Essentially unchanged in October were manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities and government.

In Your Industry

Below are some key sector highlights from the BLS “The Employment Situation – October 2015" report:

Professional and Business Services

This sector saw a gain of 78,000 in October, jumping from its 12-month average of +52,000. The top performing sub-sectors have shifted, now including: administrative and support services (+46,000), computer systems design and related services (+10,000), and architectural and engineering services (+8,000).


This sector experienced a big jump, adding nearly 44,000 jobs. Its biggest sub-sector gain was clothing and accessories stores, which had lost jobs last month but added 19,500 jobs in October. This jump is likely due to the upcoming holiday – and shopping – season. Other notable gains include: general merchandise stores (+11,100) and motor vehicle and parts dealers (+6,900). Sub-sector losses include: health and personal care stores (-3,600); furniture and home furnishings stores (-3,400); sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (-2,500); and electronics and appliance stores (-300).

Health care

The healthcare industry added 44,900 jobs in October, and has seen steady, strong growth over the past 12 months. Over the past year, it has added nearly half a million jobs. Two of its sub-sectors continue their own steady growth, including: ambulatory health care services (+26,900 – more than double the previous month's growth) and hospitals (+17,800). This month, however, the nursing and residential care services subsector is up just 200 jobs, slowing greatly compared with previous months' growth.

Leisure and Hospitality

The sector added 41,000 jobs were added to this industry, with nearly all growth attributed to food services and drinking places (+42,000). Other notable gains include repair and maintenance (+8,900) and personal and laundry services (+5,100). There was a large loss, however, in a sub-sector that had previously seen steady growth; membership associations and organizations lost 4,600 jobs.


This sector showed no net change in October, which could be considered good news by optimists who remember losses in September. Modest losses and gains were seen across the sector. Job gains include: furniture and related products (+2,600), nonmetallic mineral products (+1,800), computer and electronic products (+1,200), and motor vehicles and parts (+1,200).

Temporary Help Services

While there has been steady growth in this sector, it saw a large jump in job gains in October, adding 24,500 jobs. Year-over-year, there are an additional 116,200 jobs in this sector. This boost is a result of companies hiring seasonal workforces for the busy holiday season, a factor that is also influencing the big jump in retail jobs.

In Your Region

Overall, regional and state unemployment rates only marginally shifted in September. Employment increased over the month in 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, while six states saw a lower employment rate and seven states had no change. Year-over-year, 46 states and the District of Columbia have seen an increase in employment, with the following states boasting the top gains: Utah (+3.7 percent), South Carolina (+3.2 percent), Idaho and Washington (both +3.1 percent). The four states that have seen declines year-over-year are: North Dakota (-1.6 percent), West Virginia (-1.5 percent), Wyoming (-0.9 percent) and Alaska (-0.1 percent).

The largest significant job gains in September were in Texas (+26,600), New York (+12,000) and Georgia (+9,100). All three states are new to the top three list, replacing last month's California, Florida and Ohio. The largest month-over-month increase in percentage employed occurred in Delaware and Kansas (both +0.4 percent). The following states had the largest month-over-month decreases in employment: Missouri (-16,500), Pennsylvania (-16,400) and Michigan (-9,800). Largest percentage decreases were in the following states: Hawaii (-1.3 percent), Vermont and Wyoming (both -0.7 percent).

Check out these key regional highlights from the BLS “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment – September 2015" report:


By the end of September, the Mid-Atlantic region – part of the Northeast division – showed an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent (-0.1 from the previous month and -0.7 from September of 2014). New Jersey had the highest unemployment rate in this region at 5.6 percent, falling 0.1 percent month-over-month. The lowest unemployment rate in this region was New York at 5.1 percent. New York City's unemployment rate sat at 5.2 percent, dropping from 5.4 percent in August.

New England

The New England region – part of the Northeast division – stayed constant at 4.6 percent (down by 1.1 percent from September, 2014). Connecticut and Rhode Island are the two states with higher unemployment rates at 5.2 and 5.4 percent, respectively. Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, both at 3.7 and 3.4 percent, respectively. Vermont's unemployment rate, however, increased by 0.1 percent month-over-month.


The Midwest division had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.5 percent (falling from 4.6 percent in August) in the month of September. This division has two sub-regions:

    • East North Central (4.8 percent) and
    • West North Central (4.0 percent).

The West North Central region had six states with unemployment rates below 5.0 percent, including: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota. In fact, North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at just 2.8 percent; and the state in second place (Nebraska at 2.9 percent) is also in this region. And Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. shares the lowest unemployment rate in September at 3.1 percent when compared with the other 51 metro areas with a population of 1 million or more. The East North Central region had three states with unemployment rates below 5.0 percent: Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. These states make up for the higher unemployment rates in the entire division: Missouri (5.3 percent), Illinois (5.4 percent) and Michigan (5.0 percent). In the East North Central region, Michigan dropped to 5.0 percent with Detroit-Warren-Dearborn also steadily dropping to 5.5 percent. Since September of 2014, Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 percent, and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn's rate has fallen by 2.6 percent. Also in the region, Bismarck, N.D., had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.0 percent, replacing Fargo, which had the lowest number in August.


This region's unemployment rate remained at 5.1 percent (0.7 percent less than September, 2014). It is made up of the South Atlantic (5.3 percent unemployment), East South Central (5.7 percent unemployment) and the West South Central (4.4 percent unemployment) regions. As you can see, the West South Central region sits well below the national unemployment rate, while the South Atlantic and East South Central regions bring the South's overall unemployment rate up. Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division's regions:

  • West South Central: Texas (4.2 percent) / Louisiana (6.0 percent)
  • East South Central: Tennessee (5.7 percent) / Mississippi (6.3 percent)
  • South Atlantic: Virginia (4.3 percent) / West Virginia (7.3 percent – the highest unemployment rate in the nation)


The West division continued to have the highest divisional unemployment rate in the country at 5.6 percent. Year-over-year, the West's unemployment rate has dropped almost an entire percentage point from 6.5 in September, 2014. This division is made up of the Mountain region (5.1 percent) and Pacific region (5.7 percent). Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division's regions:

  • Pacific: Washington (5.2 percent) / Alaska (6.4 percent)
  • Mountain: Utah (3.6 percent) / New Mexico (6.8 percent)

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale's unemployment rate dropped significantly month-over-month from 7.2 to 6.9 percent and improved by 1.2 percent from one year ago. El Centro, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., continue in their spots as the metro areas with the highest unemployment rates in the nation, though both improved. El Centro, Calif. is now at 21.6 percent (-2.1 percent month-over-month) and Yuma, Ariz.'s rate is 26.0 percent (-0.9 percent month-over-month). Despite being runner-up for highest unemployment rate, El Centro, still boasts the largest year-over-year unemployment rate decrease of -4.8 percent. Yuma, on the other hand, shows the largest year-over-year jobless rate increase (+1.5 percent).

But there is good news for this division. Salt Lake City, Utah, shares the lowest unemployment rate in September with Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. at 3.1 percent when compared with the other 51 metro areas with a population of 1 million or more.

State Unemployment Rates

The list below shows each state's unemployment rate:

  • Alabama – 6.2
  • Alaska – 6.6
  • Arizona – 6.3
  • Arkansas – 5.4
  • California – 6.1
  • Colorado – 4.2
  • Connecticut – 5.3
  • Delaware – 4.8
  • District of Columbia – 6.8
  • Florida – 5.4
  • Georgia – 5.8
  • Hawaii – 3.5
  • Idaho – 4.2
  • Illinois – 5.6
  • Indiana – 4.6
  • Iowa – 3.7
  • Kansas – 4.6
  • Kentucky – 5.2
  • Louisiana – 6.0
  • Maine – 4.5
  • Maryland –5.1
  • Massachusetts – 4.7
  • Michigan – 5.1
  • Minnesota – 3.8
  • Mississippi – 6.1
  • Missouri – 5.3
  • Montana – 4.1
  • Nebraska – 2.9
  • Nevada – 6.7
  • New Hampshire – 3.4
  • New Jersey – 5.6
  • New Mexico – 6.8
  • New York – 5.1
  • North Carolina – 5.8
  • North Dakota – 2.8
  • Ohio – 4.5
  • Oklahoma – 4.4
  • Oregon – 6.2
  • Pennsylvania – 5.3
  • Rhode Island – 5.4
  • South Carolina – 5.7
  • South Dakota – 3.5
  • Tennessee – 5.7
  • Texas – 4.2
  • Utah – 3.6
  • Vermont –3.7
  • Virginia – 4.3
  • Washington – 5.2
  • West Virginia – 7.3
  • Wisconsin – 4.3
  • Wyoming – 4.0