“Encouraging” is how Bill Rodgers, professor of public policy at Rutgers University, describes the October jobs report.
The unemployment rate edged up to 7.3 percent as 204,000 jobs were created, according to the Labor Department. The August and September payroll figures also had positive revisions.
Despite these revisions, Rodgers warns this report “is not enough for those at the lower rungs of the jobs ladder because of race, gender, and where they live.” Nor is it enough to address the 36.1 percent who consist of the long-term unemployed, those out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
He stresses the unemployment rate has been falling over the past several months because job seekers are discouraged and leaving the labor force. The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, its lowest level since March 1978.
“There is no robust jobs growth,” says Rodgers.
The slow labor market recovery has adversely impacted older and younger job seekers. Americans ages 16 to 24 face higher unemployment rates, which hover around 15.1 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for workers 55 years of age and older based on October 2013 data.
However, job seekers between 55 and 64 years of age were out of work longer than any other age group. In October this group was unemployed for 52.5 weeks, according to the Labor Department. The duration of unemployment for job seekers between 20 to 24 years of age is 27.3 weeks.
“Older workers are fighting not just a business cycle, but a structural change in our economy coming from a new industrial technical revolution,” says Linda Barrington, executive director at the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University.
While we see manufacturing jobs coming back, Barrington warns they are different from jobs ten years ago. Companies may reopen a plant, but the jobs usually require higher skills and pay higher wages. Yet there may be fewer such jobs available.
Education Increases Employability
Education is the best way to lower your chances of being unemployed, Barrington says.
Companies can be very “choosey” with the labor market being so weak.
“Employers can let all of their biases come into play.” She cautions this could make it harder for older job seekers and young African-American men to find jobs.
Role of Government in Job Creation
Rodgers estimates the economy must generate at least 250,000 to 300,000 jobs per month before the African-American unemployment rate declines. The African-American unemployment rate rose to 13.1 percent in October, up from 12.9 percent in September. Black teen unemployment rose to 36 percent, up from 35.1 percent in the previous month.
He says the sequester, or automatic spending cuts, enacted by the federal government in the Spring has adversely impacted Head Start, Job Corps, and summer youth jobs programs, which help to improve employment prospects.
Democrats and Republicans lack the courage and political will to articulate the importance of these programs and to maintain funding, Rodgers says.
Although he applauds efforts made by the federal government to balance the budget and to reduce the deficit, he warns we are mortgaging our nation’s future by slashing critical programs at this time.
“The types of cuts we are making today create costs in the future to individuals, communities and at the local, state and national levels.”
Shartia Brantley is a producer and on-air reporter at CNBC. Follow Shartia on Twitter at @shartiabrantley