According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December employment report, released Friday, payroll employment grew by 103,000 in December, marking the 12th straight month of private sector job growth that added 1.3 million jobs to the economy in 2010. This marked the strongest private sector growth since 2006, and contributed to lowering the unemployment rate from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent in December.
The sectors with the largest employment growth were leisure and hospitality (+47,000), education and health services (+44,000), temporary help services (+15,900), and manufacturing (+10,000).
Although these are positive and uplifting indicators, the December jobs report did include more sobering statistics– numbers that hint our road to economic recovery is far from clear.
There were 1.3 million discouraged workers in December—an increase of 389,000 from Dec 2009. Discouraged workers are those that have become so pessimistic about their job prospects that they have simply given up and have dropped out of the labor force. Because they drop out of the labor force, they are not counted as unemployed and are thus not included in the unemployment rate. The existence of discouraged workers is significant, because it illustrates the hidden unemployment in America that is not reflected in the official unemployment rate.
The number of long-term unemployed remained mostly unchanged at 6.4 million (44.3 percent of the unemployed). The “long-term unemployed,” are those who have been out of work for six months or longer. These Americans risk losing valuable skills and human capital as they remain out of work on the sidelines of the labor market, or as they accept lower-skilled jobs. This depreciation and loss of skills can be a drag on overall economic growth and can also harm prospects for future growth.
And, many economists say the anemic jobs growth in December is not enough to absorb new entrants to the labor market or the current ranks of the unemployed to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.
As Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said in his analysis of the December jobs report,
Even though the unemployment rate fell sharply in December, it is still unacceptably high and we need robust employment growth in order to recover from the deep job losses that began over two years ago. The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically since then, but there will surely continue to be bumps in the road ahead.
In this improving, yet still tough economic climate, working families are feeling the brunt of increasing social and economic pressures as they struggle to balance work and life. More and more, they find themselves juggling the competing roles of employee, parent, spouse, student and caregiver in an economy made all the more challenging with high unemployment and stagnating wages.
That is why Corporate Voices for Working Families, through its family economic stability portfolio, works with businesses, policy makers, non-governmental organizations and others to help improve the financial stability of hourly and lower-wage workers.
In early 2011, Corporate Voices plans to release updated versions of two key toolkits which give employers practical tools to create working conditions that are more conducive to the success of lower-wage working families, and which promote their economic self-sufficiency.
Our Employer Guide for Workplace Support for Working Mothers will provide employers with the resources and tools they need to comply with the workplace lactation provision in the Affordable Care Act, and help them establish successful workplace lactation programs. This updated online lactation toolkit will offer free, practical, high-quality resources and information in multiple languages.
Our forthcoming EITC Toolkit will provide companies with tools and information to help employees take advantage of tax credits and other benefits available to them. The updated toolkit will provide detailed information about benefits available to working families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other benefits.
While the path toward full economic recovery remains unclear and long, the employer community can play a positive role in the short-term by using these toolkits to help improve the economic stability of working families. Doing so would improve the lives of working families, and be in-line with progressive management strategies that help ensure business success in the 21st century.