Job Market Update: October 2015 

From August to September, not many changes have occurred besides establishing a trend of slowing job growth. While job growth in 2015 has averaged 198,000 per month – and in 2014, 260,000 per month – the past three months have seen an average of just 167,000 new jobs. In fact, the revisions to July and August brought the previously reported numbers down to 223,000 and 136,000, respectively, meaning that employment gains in July and August were 59,000 less than reported. If, however, September's numbers aren't heavily revised, or are revised to show an increase, that will mean September shows a promising uptick to August's 136,000 jobs. The White House points out that these numbers are amidst slowing economic growth globally as well as “global financial turmoil.”

Prior to this report, pundits had expected the September report to show job gains of more than 200,000, so many observers view the actual number to be underwhelming. Overall the number of employed persons has decreased by 236,000. The labor participation rate fell from 62.6 percent to 64.2 percent. Some contributing factors may be that students are now returning to school and that the generation of Baby Boomers is in the midst of a retirement boom. Still, many feel that the Federal Reserve is now less likely to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade – which, if raised, would be a strong indicator of a fully recovered economy.

The number of full-time workers in September decreased by 185,000, while the amount of part-time workers has increased by 53,000, making September opposite to the year-over-year trend. Since September 2014 there are actually 2.6 million more people working full-time and 400,000 fewer people working part-time.

Among the unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed (meaning those who have been jobless for 27+ weeks) was little changed at 2.1 million, decreasing from 2.2 million in August. Year-over-year, however, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 847,000.
The number of discouraged workers (persons not currently looking for work as they think there are no jobs available) increased by 11,000 month-over-month, bringing that total to 635,000 in September. The other 1.3 million people who were marginally attached to the labor force – meaning they were not working, but were available to work and had been looking for a job within the last 12 months – cited family responsibilities and school attendance as reasons for not looking for work in September.

After rising by 9 cents during the month of August, the average hourly earnings for all employees fell by one cent in September to $25.09. Over the past year, however, the average hourly earnings have risen by 2.2 percent, showing steady wage increases in the US. The average hourly wage for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees remained unchanged at $21.08.

Job gains in September were most notably in health care and information. Health care added more than 34,000 jobs in September; the sector has averaged 38,000 jobs per month in the past 12 months. Information added 12,000 jobs in September, bringing it's 12-month total to 44,000 jobs. Other industry numbers:

  • Professional and business services added 31,000 jobs (its 2015 average has been +45,000).
  • Retail trade added 24,000 jobs, staying mostly in-line with it's average of +27,000 in the last 12 months.
  • Food services and drinking places added 21,000 jobs.
  • Mining jobs fell by 10,000 in September, losing a total of 102,000 jobs since December 2014.
  • Essentially unchanged in September were construction, manufacturing (which had significantly dropped in August), wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and government.

In Your Industry

This month health care and leisure and hospitality lead job growth, while the most notable losses were in mining.

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

Professional and Business Services

This sector saw a gain of 31,000 in September. The top performing sub-sectors include administrative and waste services (+10,400) and professional and technical services (+17,700). Within professional and technical services, those on the technical side won out with computer systems design and related services adding 7,000 jobs and accounting and bookkeeping services adding 5,400 jobs. Legal services, which had lost jobs in August, added 4,700 jobs in September. The only area that lost jobs in this sector was engineering services; but it lost just 200 jobs in September, improving from a loss of 4,400 in August.


This sector more than doubled its job growth from the previous month, adding 23,700 jobs in September. Biggest sub-sector gains included: automobile dealers (+5,100), general merchandise stores (+10,000) and food and beverage stores (+2,400). The largest loss in this sector was clothing and accessories stores, dropping by 1,800 jobs.


This industry added 34,400 jobs in September, which is unsurprising given its steady, strong growth over the past 12 months. Each of its sub-sectors continues their own steady growth, including: ambulatory healthcare services (+12,900), hospitals (+15,500) and nursing and residential care services (+6,000). This pattern of growth is expected to remain steady as the population ages and an increasing number of people receive health care benefits as they join the workforce.

Leisure and Hospitality

About 35,000 jobs were added to this industry, most of that being made up by food services and drinking places (+20,700). Arts, entertainment and recreation increased by 12,500 jobs, mostly in amusements, gambling and recreation, which added 11,300 of the 12,500 jobs.


This sector showed another month of loss in September, down 9,000 jobs. There were some significant gains however in wood products (+2,700), transportation equipment (+2,900) and furniture and related products (+3,300). The most significant losses in the sector occurred in fabricated metal products (-4,500), machinery (-3,500) and computer and electronic products (-2,800).

Temporary Help Services

After gaining 10,700 jobs in August, this sector has added another 4,600 jobs in September. Year-over-year, there are an additional 103,900 jobs in this sector. This boost is likely a result of many companies ramping up for the busy holiday season, a factor that is also affecting the big jump in retail jobs.

In Your Region

Overall, regional and state unemployment rates only marginally shifted in August. Employment increased over the month in 32 states, while 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, saw a lower employment rate. Year-over-year, 47 states and the District of Columbia have seen an increase in employment. The three states that have seen declines year-over-year are: West Virginia (-2.6 percent), North Dakota (-0.7 percent) and Alaska (-0.4 percent).

The largest significant job gains in August were in California (+36,200), Florida (+19,600) and Ohio (+14,600), with Ohio replacing Texas in this list when compared with July. The largest month-over-month increase in percentage employed occurred in Hawaii (+1.3 percent). The following states had the largest month-over-month decreases in employment: New York and Texas (both -13,700), plus New Hampshire (-3,900).

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


By the end of August, the Mid-Atlantic region showed an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent (-0.1 from the previous month and -0.7 from August of 2014). New Jersey had the highest unemployment rate in this region at 5.7 percent. New York City's unemployment rate sat at 5.4 percent, dropping from 5.7 percent in July.


The Midwest region had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.6 percent (falling from 4.8 percent in July) in the month of August. The region has nine states with unemployment rates below the national number, including: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. These states make up for the higher unemployment rates of Illinois and Missouri, both 5.6 percent (both dropped from 5.8 percent in July). Michigan matched the national average in August at 5.1 percent, with Detroit-Warren-Dearborn at 5.6 percent, dropping from 5.8 percent in July. Since August of 2014, Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 percent, and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn's rate as fallen by 2.6 percent. Also in the region, Fargo, N.D., had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.2 percent, replacing Bismarck, which had the lowest number in July. Nebraska was the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation in August, at 2.8 percent (2.3 percentage points less than the national average).

New England

The New England region showed a 0.1 percent decrease in their unemployment rate, dropping to 4.6 (down by 1.2 percent from August, 2014). Connecticut and Rhode Island are the two states with higher unemployment rates at 5.3 and 5.6 percent, respectively. Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, both at 3.6 percent. Vermont's top industries are: manufacturing, agriculture, animal products and crops (now that it's officially fall, think maple syrup and apples), service (private health care, ski resorts, hotels, etc.) and wine production. New Hampshire has a similar story, with the following top industries producing jobs: manufacturing (especially technology), health care and tourism (especially for winter and water sports).


This region's unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percent to 5.1 percent month-over-month. It is made up of the South Atlantic (5.4 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 – which includes Texas and Oklahoma, both energy hotbeds – is well below the national unemployment rate, while the South Atlantic and East South Central regions bring the South's overall unemployment rate up. West Virginia had the nation's highest unemployment rate in August, well above the national percentage at 7.6 percent. This region has four states, plus the District of Columbia, with unemployment rates at 6 percent or above: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. Oklahoma (4.6 percent), Texas (4.1 percent) and Virginia (4.5 percent) have the lowest unemployment rates of the region, though Oklahoma's rose a bit from 4.5 percent in July. Austin-Round Rock, Texas, had the lowest unemployment rate of any metro area with a population of 1 million+ at 3.2 percent.


The west continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.7 percent. Year-over-year, the West's unemployment rate has dropped almost an entire percentage point from 6.6 in August, 2014. This region is made up of the Mountain and Pacific regions, and the Pacific region accounts for the higher unemployment rate (5.9 percent), while the Mountain region's unemployment rate stayed steady at 5.1 percent, now matching the national number. Utah has this region's lowest unemployment rate at 3.7 percent, though it has gone up a tenth of a percentage point the last two months. Montana, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming boast unemployment rates lower than the national number. While California maintains a higher unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, it has been steadily improving and had the most significant month-over-month jobs increase in the nation, adding 36,200 jobs in August. In fact, 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., remain the two metro areas with the highest unemployment rates in the nation: El Centro, Calif. (23.7 percent) and Yuma, Ariz. (26.9 percent). Despite being runner-up for highest unemployment rate, El Centro, saw the largest year-over-year unemployment rate decrease of -4.7 percent. Yuma, unfortunately, hasn't seen the same positive trend; in fact, it's unemployment rate has gone up by 0.3 percent month-over-month.