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Digging Beyond 7.2

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its most recent report on U.S. employment. At the end of December, the unemployment rate reached 7.2 percent. While far from the double-digit rates of the 1980s, the increase in unemployment reflects a staggering one-month loss of 524,000 jobs and the disappearance of 1.9 million jobs in the final third of 2008. These sobering highlights are widely reported in the news media, but most of the BLS report gets little coverage. Readers willing to dig deep enough can find some interesting -- and possibly helpful -- information.

Consider these statistics:
Only 3.7 percent of civilians with a bachelor's degree or higher are unemployed, nearly half the overall unemployment rate. (The unemployment rate for those with some college or an associate degree is 5.6 percent.)

Unemployment in management, professional, or related occupations is 3.3 percent. Service occupations have the lowest unemployment rate (2.9 percent), and the category called farming, fishing, and forestry has the highest (18.3 percent).

Healthcare employment actually rose in 2008. The industry added 372,000 jobs during the year.

In December, two age groups showed gains in the number of people employed: eighteen-to-nineteen year old women and workers age fifty-five and older. (According to a separate BLS report, in the ten-year period ending 2007, the number of workers age sixty-five and over increased by 101 percent. The number of people age seventy-five and over jumped 172 percent during the same period.)

The BLS also tracks the number of job openings in the country. As of October 31, the latest available information, there were 3.1 million unfilled jobs. For the year, the government sector had the smallest decrease in the number of open positions.
Can you use this information in your role as a leader? I think so. For starters, make sure you're not taking your most highly educated workers for granted; they're still very much in demand in the workforce and vulnerable to pilfering by your competitors. And if you're having trouble finding qualified employees, look no further than the growing abundance of workers eager to work past the traditional retirement age. Most importantly, read beyond the headlines to find the data that truly impacts your business.


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