The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its November 2021 jobs report, which shows that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 210,000 in November, while the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2%. 

In mid-November, the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) issued its monthly True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) for October 2021, which similarly indicated that the overall True Rate of Unemployed decreased from September to October.

The TRU tracks the percentage of the U.S. labor force that does not have a full-time job (35+ hours a week) but wants one, has no job, or does not earn a living wage, conservatively pegged at $20,000 annually before taxes (in January 2020 dollars) — these individuals are considered functionally unemployed. The Ludwig Institute uses data compiled by the BLS and notes that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce was functionally unemployed.

BLS reported that notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and  manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month.

While the numbers are up, First American Deputy Chief Economist Odeta Kushi, suggested that the recovery is still underway.

“There are nearly 2.4 million workers still missing from the labor force compared with pre-pandemic levels, and their return has been slow,” Kushi said. “The labor force participation rate did increase in November, from 61.6% to 61.8%, but remains below the pre-pandemic level of 63.3%.”

In addition, Kushi pointed out that the increase in non-farm payroll employment was below consensus expectations, a regression from October’s strong numbers.

Construction was a bright point during the month, with broad-based gains as specialty trade contractors were up 13,000 and construction of buildings up 10,000.

“Job growth increased 0.5% for residential construction, a faster pace than previous months. Residential building is up approximately 5.8% compared with pre-COVID levels, while non-residential remains 3.3% below. Attracting skilled labor remains a key priority for the construction industry,” Kushi tweeted. 

In its release of November data, BLS revised up total nonfarm payroll employment for September by 67,000, from +312,000 to +379,000, and the change for October was revised up by 15,000, from +531,000 to +546,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 82,000 higher than previously reported, the Bureau said.

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