Unemployment hits lowest level since Lehman’s collapse

BY Simone Pathe  July 3, 2014 at 11:37 AM EDT

Unemployment_slideshow
The American economy added 288,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis began.

Despite weak economic growth during the first quarter of 2014, this is the fifth month in a row that average payroll gains have exceeded 200,000.

The strong payroll numbers in Thursday’s report, released a day early because of the July 4 holiday, exceed Wall Street’s consensus expectation of 215,000 jobs. But it’s worth noting that the margin of error for the establishment survey of employers is, plus or minus, 90,000 jobs.

Making Sen$e’s “U7” measure of unemployment, which adds to the officially unemployed part-timers looking for full-time work and “discouraged” workers, also declined — to 14.23 percent — its lowest since we’ve started calculating it.
June 2014 Solman Scale
The labor force participation rate, however, remained flat for the third month in a row at 62.8 percent. For much of 2013, the decline in the labor force participation rate pushed the unemployment rate lower as people dropped out of the labor market. So while the share of people working remains lowered, part of that decline is to be expected as baby boomers reach retirement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report was widely heralded Thursday morning as a sign of continued economic recovery. One possible note of caution, however, is the rise in the number of people working part-time “for economic reasons” — so-called involuntary part-timers, which may inspire debate about the quality of jobs added. But since their year-over-year numbers are down, Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker told the NewsHour that June’s rise is likely statistical noise.

The Making Sen$e page will have much more analysis of June’s employment data later Thursday, as will Paul Solman on Thursday’s program.