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Job gains persisted in September, with nonfarm payroll employment up by 661,000, according to the most recent employment situation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points (1 million people) and is now at 7.9% (12.6 million people). 

Although the employment numbers have been steadily improving over the past five months, September was still well behind February. Not only that, but the recovery is leaving many behind, namely, women, BIPOC, and people with less education.

Alarming number of women leave workforce  

As unemployment rates are shrinking, so, too, is the labor force, particularly when it comes to women. Challenges like school and daycare closures, inflexible work schedules, and work-life imbalances have left families with tough decisions to make. Many working mothers — much more so than working fathers — have decided to cut back on hours or drop out of work altogether.

Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, compared to 216,000 men. 

Unemployment rates declining disproportionately for BIPOC and those with less education

September’s unemployment rates decreased by 0.6 percentage points to 7.4% among adult men and fell by 0.7 percentage points to 7.7% among adult women.

Unemployment rates are still highest among non-white demographics and job seekers with less education:

  • Black/African American: 12.1%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 10.3%
  • Asian: 8.9%
  • White: 7.0%
  • No high school diploma: 10.6%
  • High school graduates, no college: 9.0%
  • Some college/associate degree: 8.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree and higher 4.8%

Single mothers also found it difficult to maintain jobs — as of September, their unemployment rate (10%) was significantly greater than that of married women (6%). 

Black women are also disproportionately affected — their unemployment rates are at 11.1% compared to 6.9% for white women.

Less temporary, more permanent job loss

Temporary layoffs declined by 1.5 million, and have dropped from 18.1 million in April to 4.6 million in September. However, permanent job loss climbed by 345,000 last month and is now at 3.8 million. 

In September, more than 19 million people reported that they were unable to work due to the closure or loss of their business. This number is down from 24 million in August.

Job gains hold strong for most industries

Only two of the major industry groups experienced job declines last month — government, which lost 216,000 jobs, and private education, which lost 69,000. Sectors that added the most jobs for the period:

  • Leisure and hospitality: +318,000
  • Retail trade: +142,000 
  • Healthcare and social assistance: +108,000 
  • Professional and business services: +89,000 
  • Transportation and warehousing: +74,000

Though job growth is still progressing, September’s numbers are lower than previous months, indicating a slowing economic recovery. Catching up to pre-COVID status (February) will require another 10.7 million jobs.

Looking for more industry insights? Tune into the Staffing Show.