November 2020 Employment Report by Bruce Steinberg

How the pandemic affected employment by race …

Last month we looked the effect the pandemic had on employment — well, unemployment to be more precise — by gender and drilled down further by age grouping. This month we look at the pandemic’s effect on unemployment by race.

We normally prefer to examine unemployment trends by seasonally adjusted data but unfortunately unemployment rates for some races are only published on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Steinberg_unemployment_SA_v_NSA.jpg

But, the difference between seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted data series for all persons 20 years and older is fairly minor and doesn’t significantly change the trendlines. Additionally, the differences between the trendlines of seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment rates by race do not vary much from the trendline for all persons so they are not charted / presented here, but will send them upon request.

In January and February the unemployment rate for White and Asian persons 20 years and older was slightly under than for all workers and significantly higher for Black or African American persons (sidebar: these race names are those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). While the unemployment rate for Black or African American was around 6 percent, it was under 4 percent for all White and Asian persons 20 years or older. In March 2020 — the month before the pandemic affected unemployment rate measurements — the overall unemployment rate was 4.2 percent for all persons broken out as 3.8 percent for White, 4.0 percent for Asian, and  6.4 percent for Black or African American.Steinberg_unemployment_NSA_race.jpg

The following month in April 2020 as the pandemic hit the job market, the overall unemployment rate for persons 20 years and older skyrocketed to 13.9 percent and to 16.0 percent for Black or African American, 14.1 percent for Asian, and 13.3 for White. After the peak in April, the unemployment rates generally trended downward with one exception; the Asian unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage point to 14.5 in May.

However, the gap between the unemployment rates for all persons and race show varying trends. Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Q1 2020 was a little more than 0.4 percentage point below the overall rate for White; a little less than 2.3 percentage points higher for Black or African American, and a little more thanb 0.5 percentage point lower for Asian.

But the current gaps between the unemployment rates by race — although generally continue to decline — show different trends.
For White, the gap in October 2020 was 0.9 percentage point lower compared than the overall unemployment rate to the gap of 0.4 percentage point lower in March 2020. For African American, the gap in October was 3.8 percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate compared to 2.2 percentage points higher than in March. And the gap was 1.2 percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate in October compared to being 0.2 percentage point lower in March for Asian.

November 2020 Employment Report

Quick Recap

Job growth slowed considerably in November and although the unemployment rate declined, it did so for the wrong reasons.

The economy added a total of only 245,000 nonfarm jobs in November, compared to a 610,000 rise in October that followed an increase of 711,000 in September. A year ago in November 2019, it added 261,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate continue to decline in November and now stands at 6.7 percent, but that is mainly due to a big drop in the size of the labor force as the number of people not in the labor force increased.

Average hourly wages were up nine cents an hour in November compared to a two-cent bump up in September as well as October.

And Temporary help services has added jobs for the seventh consecutive month in November although its growth has slowed considerably. 


Job Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the economy added 344,000 private-sector jobs in November and that was well off the pace of the 877,000 gain in October as well as the increase of 930,000 in September.

The private Goods-producing sector was up 55,000 in November, which was only about half the growth of 107,000 of October and less than the 97,000 gain in September.

  • Manufacturing was up 27,000 in November that was not too far off the increase of 33,000 in October but considerably less than the gain of 60,000 of September.

  • The Construction sector slowed with an increase of also 27,000 in November that was well off the growth of 72,000 of October and less than the increase of 35,000 in September.

  • And Mining and logging continued to take baby steps with the addition of 1,000 jobs in November after adding 2,000 jobs each month in October as well as September.

The private Service-providing sector added only 289,000 jobs in November after growing by 770,000 in October and increasing 833,000 in September.

  • The Retail trade sector continued to be very uneven in its staffing with a decline of 34,700 jobs in November after adding 95,100 in October that followed an increase of only 15,300 in September.

  • But the Wholesale trade sector continued to move forward with the addition of 10,400 jobs in November after increasing by only about half that amount with a 5,000-job gain in October, but still well off the pace of September when it increased 32,600 jobs.

  • Things continued to pick up considerably in Transportation and warehousing with 145,000 more jobs in November than October when it increased 62,000 jobs; in September, it added 44,400 jobs.

  • Financial activities growth slowed with only 15,000 more jobs in November after adding 30,000 in October that followed an increase of 37,000 in September.

  • The Professional and business services sector jobs put on the brakes with only 60,000 more jobs in November than October when it added 231,000; in September, it added 127,000 jobs. Computer systems design and related services reversed direction and deleted 7,600 jobs in November after programming in 12,900 more jobs in October. Management and technical consulting services also trimmed its payroll with a small decline of 800 jobs in November after 13,900 jobs in October. And Architectural and engineering services followed suit with a decline of 1,800 jobs in November after adding 3,900 in October.

  • The private Education and health services sector was up 54,000 in November — despite a decline in private Educational Services of 5,700 jobs. Home health care services did well with an rise of 13,000 jobs in November after increasing by only 3,600 in October.

  • The Leisure and hospitality sector grew by only 31,000 in November after adding 270,000 in October; its slow growth can be directly tracked to a decline in “Food services and drinking places.”

The total number of Government jobs were down 99,000 in November. The Federal government was down 86,000 after discharging 93,000 Census temporary workers; state government was flat and local government was down a total of 13,000 after sending 20,700 local government education workers home and not for remote teaching..

Temporary Help Services Roundup

Although Temporary Help Services continued to add jobs, it did so at a slower pace with the addition of only 32,200 jobs in November after adding 123,000 in October but still better than the 24,800 added in September. This brings the total number of THS jobs to 2,646,600, which works out to a 1.2 percent sequential increase, but still down 10.1 percent from November 2019.

Note that Temporary Help Services has added almost 600,000 jobs since April when it plunged by 840,500 jobs from March.

For a chart of temporary help’s growth from January 1991 to November 2020 and comparing its trend to total employment, click here. 

(if charts are unclear, click on it to open in a browser window)


In November 2020, temporary help services market share, which is its portion of all jobs, increased to 1.8556 percent up from 1.8362 the previous month. A year ago in November 2019 it was 1.9402 percent and two years ago in November 2018 it was 1.9958 percent.


Household Survey

Although BLS is still experiencing errors with the data because of data collection being affected by the pandemic because of closed data collection centers and persons misclassifying themselves.

Officially, the unemployment rate in November was 6.7 percent in November and that was lower than the 6.9 percent in October.

Despite the number of employed persons declining by 74,000, the number of unemployed also declined and by 326,000. However, the size of the entire labor force decreased by 400,000 and there were 560,000 more people considered as not in the labor force in November.

The labor force participation rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 61.5 percent in November from October and the employment-to-population ratio was down 0.1 percent to 57.3 percent.

The number of discouraged workers is up from a year ago to 674,000 from 325,000 in November 2019.

BTW, we maintain an updated table of many major employment as well as other general economic indicators here or here for the mobile version.