Job Market Update: January 2016 

Following November’s impressive numbers, December’s jobs gains continue to impress. The gain of 292,000 jobs is proof of our economy’s strengthening. While the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0 percent, it’s still a seven-year low, the lowest since April 2008. This recent jobs boost comes after a steady decline in job gains since July, once again paving the way for the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

Revisions to October and November reports are +8,000 and +41,000, respectively, bringing the net increase from the past two months' revisions to +49,000 jobs. The past 3 months have averaged 284,000 job gains per month.

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 0.6%, or 800,000 to be specific.

  • Long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27+ weeks) – 2.1 million, little changed since June
  • Civilian labor force participation rate – 62.6 percent
  • Employment-population ratio – 59.5 percent, little changed over the past year

The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers) had little change at 6.0 million in December, but was down 764,000 over the year. Additionally, 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 427,000 over the past year. That’s a drop of 35,000 from November. 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) fell to 663,000 in December, dropping 69,000 from November.

After an increase in the average hourly earnings for all employees last month, December saw a 1-cent decrease, bringing the average to $25.24. 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 saw a slight increase to $21.22.

Sectors most responsible for the increased jobs gains are: construction, food services and drinking places and health care. See below for numbers:

  • Professional and technical services added 11,000 jobs (its 12-month gain has been +278,800).
  • Health care added 39,400 jobs, bringing its 2015 total to +15.3 million jobs.
  • Retail trade added 4,300 jobs (year over year growth has been +274,000).
  • Food services and drinking places added 36,900 jobs, bringing its 2015 total to +11.25 million jobs.
  • Mining jobs dropped by 7,500 in December, losing a total of 129,400 jobs since December 2014.
  • Construction added 45,000 jobs, bringing its 2015 total to +6.5 million jobs.

Essentially unchanged in December were wholesale trade, retail trade, financial activities and government.

In Your Industry

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


This sector saw a gain of 73,000 jobs in December, a boost from last month’s 27,000. While a few of the sub-sectors have seen declines, the top performing sub-sectors included: Employment services (+42,300), Administrative and support services (+57,600), and Temporary help services (+34,400).


This sector saw a gain of 4,300 jobs, a significant difference from November’s 30,700 job increase. Its biggest sub-sector gain was Motor vehicle and parts dealers with a gain of +9,600 jobs. Other notable gains include: Building material and garden supply stores (+8,500) and Miscellaneous store retailers (+9,000). Sub-sector losses include: Clothing and clothing accessories stores (-17,500) and General merchandise stores (-4,700).


The healthcare industry added 39,400 jobs in December. Over the past year this sector has seen strong growth, adding over half a million jobs in 2015. Two of its sub-sectors continue their own steady growth, including: ambulatory health care services with a significant increase of 23,400 jobs and Social Assistants adding 13,200 jobs. During the month of December, the healthcare industry experienced no losses in any of their segments.


The sector added 29,000 jobs, with nearly all growth attributed to accommodation and food services (+32,100). Arts, entertainment and recreation, which experienced a gain of 6,700 jobs in November, had a loss of -3,200 jobs in December.


This sector showed a gain of 8,000 jobs in December. Modest losses and gains were seen across the sector. Job gains include: Electric equipment and appliances (+2,100) and furniture and related products (+2,100). Job losses include: Durable goods  (-6,000) and Machinery (-6,300).


After decline in November, losing 12,300 jobs, this sector experienced a gain in December, adding 34,400 jobs. Year-over-year, there are an additional 94,500 jobs in this sector.

In Your Region

Overall, regional and state unemployment rates saw little change in November. The employment rate decreased over the month in 27 states, while 11 states saw a higher employment rate, and 12 states had no change, including the District of Columbia. Year-over-year, 45 states and the District of Columbia have seen an increase in employment, with the following states boasting the top gains: Idaho (+4.2 percent), Utah (+3.6 percent), and Florida (+3.0 percent). The three states that have seen declines year-over-year are: North Dakota (-2.9 percent), West Virginia (-1.4 percent), and Wyoming (-0.7 percent).

The largest significant job gains in November 2015 were in Florida (+35,200), Texas (+16,300) and Virginia (+14,400). The largest month-over-month increase in percentage employed occurred in Vermont (+0.9 percent), followed by Idaho (+0.7 percent) and Delaware (+0.6 percent). The following states had the largest month-over-month decreases in employment: Nevada (-6,700), Wisconsin (-4,800), and Pennsylvania (-3,400). Largest percentage decreases were in the following states: Nevada (-0.5 percent), followed by Wyoming (-0.4 percent) and New Hampshire and North Dakota (-0.3 percent each).

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



By the end of November, the Mid-Atlantic region – part of the Northeast division – showed an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent, remaining unchanged from October. New Jersey had the highest unemployment rate in this region at 5.3 percent, falling 0.1 percent month-over-month. The lowest unemployment rate in this region was New York at 4.8 percent, remaining unchanged from October. New York City also maintains 4.8 percent.

New England

The New England region – part of the Northeast division – stayed constant at 4.6 percent. Connecticut and Rhode Island are the two states with higher unemployment rates at 5.1 and 5.2 percent, respectively. Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, both at 3.7 and 3.2 percent, respectively.


The Midwest division had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.6 percent the month of November. This division has two sub-regions:

  • East North Central (5.0 percent)
  • West North Central (3.9 percent)

The West North Central region had seven states with unemployment rates below 5.0 percent, including: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota. In fact, North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at just 2.7 percent; and the state in second place (Nebraska at 2.9 percent) is also in this region.

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: Illinois (5.7 percent) and Michigan (5.1 percent). 
In the East North Central region, Michigan’s Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area unemployment rate came in at 5.9 percent. Since November of 2014, Michigan's unemployment rate has decreased 1.4 percent, and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn's rate has also fallen by 1.9 percent.


This region showed an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. It is made up of the South Atlantic (5.3 percent unemployment), East South Central (5.7 percent unemployment) and the West South Central (4.8 percent unemployment) regions.

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: Oklahoma (4.2 percent) / Louisiana (6.3 percent)
  • East South Central: Kentucky (4.9 percent) / Alabama and Mississippi (both at 6.0 percent)
  • South Atlantic: Virginia (4.2 percent) / West Virginia (6.5 percent)


The West division continued to have the highest divisional unemployment rate in the country at 5.4 percent (down 0.1% from a month earlier). Year-over-year, the West's unemployment rate has dropped an entire percentage point from 6.4 in November 2014. This division is made up of the Mountain region (5.0) and Pacific region (5.6). Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division's regions:

  • Pacific: Hawaii (3.2 percent) / Alaska (6.4 percent)
  • Mountain: Utah (3.5 percent) / New Mexico (6.8 percent)

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale's unemployment rate dropped month-over-month from 6.1 to 5.9 percent, and improved significantly by 2.1 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 20.4 percent (-2.3 percent month-over-month) and Yuma, Ariz.'s rate is 20.0 percent (-0.3 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 -2.3 percent.

There is good news for the Western division. Logan, UT-ID, has the lowest unemployment rate in November of 2.6 percent.


The list below shows each state's unemployment rate:

  • Alabama – 6.0
  • Alaska – 6.4
  • Arizona – 6.0
  • Arkansas – 5.0
  • California – 5.7
  • Colorado – 3.6
  • Connecticut – 5.1
  • Delaware – 5.1
  • District of Columbia – 6.6
  • Florida – 5.0
  • Georgia – 5.6
  • Hawaii – 3.2
  • Idaho – 3.9
  • Illinois – 5.7
  • Indiana – 4.4
  • Iowa – 3.4
  • Kansas – 4.0
  • Kentucky – 4.9
  • Louisiana – 6.3
  • Maine – 4.1
  • Maryland –5.2
  • Massachusetts – 4.7
  • Michigan – 5.1
  • Minnesota – 3.5
  • Mississippi – 6.0
  • Missouri – 4.7
  • Montana – 4.0
  • Nebraska – 2.9
  • Nevada – 6.5
  • New Hampshire – 3.2
  • New Jersey – 5.3
  • New Mexico – 6.8
  • New York – 4.8
  • North Carolina – 5.7
  • North Dakota – 2.7
  • Ohio – 4.5
  • Oklahoma – 4.2
  • Oregon – 5.7
  • Pennsylvania – 5.0
  • Rhode Island – 5.2
  • South Carolina – 5.5
  • South Dakota – 3.0
  • Tennessee – 5.6
  • Texas – 4.6
  • Utah – 3.5
  • Vermont –3.7
  • Virginia – 4.2
  • Washington – 5.3
  • West Virginia – 6.5
  • Wisconsin – 4.2
  • Wyoming – 4.1