Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In August, an increase in government employment largely reflected temporary hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, in professional and business services, in leisure and hospitality, and in education and health services.
This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys.
Household Survey Data
In August, the unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points to 8.4 percent, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 2.8 million to 13.6 million. Both measures have declined for 4 consecutive months but are higher than in February, by 4.9 percentage points and 7.8 million, respectively.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined in August for adult men (8.0 percent), adult women (8.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), Whites (7.3 percent), Blacks (13.0 percent), and Hispanics (10.5 percent). The jobless rate for Asians (10.7 percent) changed little over the month.
Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased by 3.1 million in August to 6.2 million, down considerably from the series high of 18.1 million in April. In August, the number of permanent job losers increased by 534,000 to 3.4 million; this measure has risen by 2.1 million since February. The number of unemployed reentrants to the labor force declined by
263,000 to 2.1 million. (Reentrants are persons who previously worked but were not in the labor force prior to beginning their job search.)
The number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than 5 weeks decreased by 921,000 to 2.3 million in August, and the number of persons jobless 5 to 14 weeks fell by 2.0 million to 3.1 million. The long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) numbered 1.6 million, little changed over the month.
The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage point to 61.7 percent in August but is 1.7 percentage points below its February level. Total employment, as measured by the household survey, rose by 3.8 million in August to 147.3 million. The employment-population ratio rose by 1.4 percentage points to 56.5 percent but is 4.6 percentage points lower than in
In August, the number of persons who usually work full time rose by 2.8 million to 122.4 million, and the number who usually work part time increased by 991,000 to 25.0 million. Part-time workers accounted for about one-fourth of the over-the-month employment gain.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) declined by 871,000 to 7.6 million in August, reflecting a decrease in the number of people who worked part time due to slack work or business conditions (-1.1 million). The number of involuntary part-time workers is 3.3 million higher than in February. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. This group includes persons who usually work full time and persons who usually work part time.
In August, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job declined by 747,000 to 7.0 million; this measure is 2.0 million higher than in February. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job.
Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 2.1 million, changed little in August. These individuals had not actively looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey but wanted a job, were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, decreased by 130,000 in August to 535,000.
Household Survey Supplemental Data
In August, 24.3 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 26.4 percent in July. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, 24.2 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 31.3 million in July. Among those who reported in August that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 11.6 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked.
About 5.2 million persons not in the labor force in August were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This is down from 6.5 million in July. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must either be actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)
These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May to help gauge the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. The data are not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months are available online at www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.