Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Low-Wage Workers, Millennials, Blacks, and Those with Less than a High School Degree are Struggling Amid Job Recovery

The latest September 2020 employment report shows that the economy continues to create new jobs but the recovery has not been even, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact workers in the food services, lodging/accommodation, and retail trade industry who account for 40% of the 10.7 million lost jobs that still need to be restored. Unemployment rates are highest among millennials, Blacks, and those with less than a high school degree. With businesses still not operating at full capacity due to social distancing, there has been a shift towards part-time employment.

11.7 M Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Created since May, but 10.7 M Jobs Still Need to be Restored

  • The September employment figures released last Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed the economy created 661 thousand jobs, bringing the total number of net payroll jobs created from May―September to 11.4 million. However, 10.7 million jobs need to be restored relative to the level in February 2020.
  • Of the 11.4 million payroll jobs created during May through September, 52% were in leisure and hospitality (arts, entertainment, recreation, food services, accommodation) and in retail trade. Of the 10.7 million jobs tthat need to be regained, 40% are in these two industries.
  • More than one milion lost jobs still have to be regained in leisure and hospitality (3.84 million), education and health (1.4 million), and professional and business services (1.4 million).
Line graph: Nonfarm Payroll Employment January 2019 Through September 2020
Bar chart: Net Payroll Jobs Gains by Industry and Lost Jobs Still to Recover May Through September 2020
  • The job loss is harder for those in the leisure and retail trade sector because these workers are already in the lower rung of the wage ladder and were already struggling more than other workers to make ends meet.
Bar chart: Average Weekly Wages by Industry as of September 2020
  • While the bulk of workers work full-time, the share has declined to 83% (85.7% in March 2020); on the flip side, the fraction of part-time workers has increased to 17% (14.3% in March).
  • Of those working part-time, nearly all—96%-- reported this is due to slack work or business conditions or that they could only find part-time work.
Line graph: Part-Time and Full-Time Jobs, January 2019 Through August 2020

Unemployment Rate Falls But is Highest Among Millennials, Blacks, and Those with Less than a High School Degree

  • The unemployment rate declined to 7.9 percent, with the number of unemployed falling to 12.58 million, or 970,000 fewer unemployed than in August. This level of unemployment is now just about half the peak of 23 million in April 2020.
  • By age group, the 35-44 group is associated with the lowest unemployment rate, at 6.2%, while the highest unemployment rate is of the 25-34 cohort, which captures most millennials.
  • By race, the lowest unemployment rates are of whites (7%) and Asians (8.9%) and the highest rates are of Blacks (12.1%) and Hispanics (10.3%.
  • Workers with less than a high school diploma are the only group with a double-digit unemployment rate, at 10.6%, about twice the rate of those with a college degree, at 4.8%.
Line graph: Employment Rate by Age Group, January 2019 Through September 2020
Line graph: Employment Rate by Race, January 2019 Through September 2020

About 1 in 5 Workers are Teleworking

  • The fraction of workers who telework continues to decline, from 35% in May to 22.7% in September, according to the U.S Census Bureau’s supplemental employment survey. While there are fewer workers who are teleworking, this is still higher compared to about 6% in 2019.
  • By occupation, the highest fraction among groups of workers who telework is those in office-using jobs. For example, 75% of those in computer jobs are still teleworking.
  • By the nature of their occupations, there are workers who cannot telework (e.g., food preparation, grounds cleaning, construction), so conditions should be such that they are able to work and travel safely amid the continued increase in coronavirus cases.
Bar chart: Percent of Employees Who Teleworked, May Through September 2020
Bar chart: Percent of Workers Who Teleworked by Job Type, May Through September 2020
Bar chart: Percent of Workers Who Teleworked by Job Type, May Through September 2020


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