Skip to main content

Why It's Good the Unemployment Rate Ticked Up

In August, the U.S. economy added 315,000 jobs, bringing the 3-month average to 378,000 jobs. The private sector added 308,000 jobs. Every sector saw job gains, with the largest gains in professional and business services (+68,000), health care (+48,000) and retail trade (+44,000). With this report, the wholesale trade sector fully recovered. 

The unemployment rate rose for a positive reason – more unemployed workers began seeking jobs. 

In August, the labor force participation increased to 62.4% after stagnating for several months. This increase in participation led to a slight increase in the unemployment rate, now at 3.7%. This rise was a positive sign – Americans who were not employed and not looking for work began to look for work,  becoming classified as unemployed. (Unemployed persons must be actively looking for work to be counted in the primary measure of the unemployment rate.) 

Notably, the prime-age (25-54 years old) employment to population ratio recovered, particularly the employment-to-population ratio for prime-age women. And prime-age women’s labor force participation rate now exceeds its February 2020 point. This is one month of data that we hope will become a trend. 

Change in Force Labor Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2020. The chart shows the dramatic drop in labor force participation for both prime-age men and prime-age women from February 2020 to April 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by slow by steady increasing labor force participation for both men and women up until August 2022. Prime-age women's labor force participation has completely recovered and prime-age men's participation is nearly recovered from its pandemic low.

Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2022 - accessible version

Racial unemployment gaps persist 

Disaggregating labor market data by race and gender is important for getting a fuller picture of labor market outcomes and for advancing policy designed to uplift all of America. The Department continues this commitment with the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s publication of two new monthly data series: labor market indicators for Americans of two or more races and indicators for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders. (Learn more here.) Additionally, the gaps within unemployment rates by race and gender persist, including in the August jobs data, even as workers of all races get jobs and labor force participation improves. 

Chart comparing the unemployment rate by race and gender in January 2021 and August 2022, including the national average, Black men, white men, Hispanic men, Asian men, Black women, white women, Hispanic women and Asian women. The rate has decreased in all categories during this time period..

Unemployment Rate by Race and Gender chart - accessible version

Labor market outcomes for Black and brown workers are correlated with the business cycle, though not completely determined by them. These inequities underscore the importance of investing in economic growth that is shared, including through the investments made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. At the Department of Labor, an equitable recovery and an equitable labor market are top priorities, from enforcing the federal laws targeting unfair and discriminatory practices to promoting pathways to good-paying jobs for everyone through the Good Jobs Initiative

Joelle Gamble is the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor.
 

 

Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2022 - accessible version. Note that the data are indexed, and February 2020 equals 100.

Change in Labor Force Participation Rate, February 2020 to August 2022 - accessible version
Date Men Women Prime-age men Prime-age women
February 2020 100 100 100 100
March 2020 98.98989899 98.61830743 99.77578475 98.95968791
April 2020 95.38239538 93.95509499 96.86098655 95.5786736
May 2020 96.24819625 95.16407599 97.75784753 96.6189857
June 2020 97.11399711 97.06390328 98.43049327 97.91937581
July 2020 96.82539683 97.23661485 98.0941704 97.65929779
August 2020 97.54689755 96.71848014 98.5426009 97.39921977
September 2020 97.4025974 96.20034542 98.31838565 96.74902471
October 2020 97.69119769 96.89119171 98.43049327 97.26918075
November 2020 97.25829726 96.71848014 97.86995516 97.00910273
December 2020 97.25829726 96.54576857 97.98206278 97.13914174
January 2021 97.4025974 95.85492228 98.20627803 97.13914174
February 2021 97.25829726 96.54576857 98.20627803 97.39921977
March 2021 97.11399711 97.063903 98.20627803 97.7893368
April 2021 97.54689755 96.37305699 98.5426009 97.65929779
May 2021 97.4025974 96.37305699 98.5426009 97.52925878
June 2021 97.54689755 97.23661485 98.76681614 98.04941482
July 2021 97.54689755 97.40932642 98.99103139 98.30949285
August 2021 97.69119769 96.89119171 98.99103139 98.04941482
September 2021 97.69119769 96.71848014 98.87892377 97.91937581
October 2021 97.69119769 97.23661485 98.76681614 98.04941482
November 2021 97.83549784 97.40932642 98.87892377 98.43953186
December 2021 97.69119769 97.40932642 98.65470852 98.69960988
January 2022 97.97979798 97.75474957 98.87892377 98.82964889
February 2022 98.55699856 97.75474957 99.55156951 98.56957087
March 2022 98.55699856 98.27288428 99.43946188 99.47984395
April 2022 98.12409812 97.582038 99.43946188 99.08972692
May 2022 98.12409812 98.10017271 99.43946188 99.60988296
June 2022 97.83549784 98.44559585 99.10313901 99.34980494
July 2022 97.54689755 98.61830743 99.10313901 99.34980494
August 2022 97.83549784 98.61830743 99.32735426 100.390117

 

 

 

Unemployment Rate by Race and Gender, accessible version

Unemployment Rate by Race and Gender, accessible version
National Average Black men   Hispanic men Asian men Black women White women Hispanic women Asian women
January 2021 6.4 9.4 5.5 7.6 5.7 8.5 5.2 8.8 7.9
August 2022 3.7 6 3.1 3.9 2.7 5.9 2.8 4.3 3.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
15 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.