The U.S. unemployment rate finished 2017 at 4.1 percent, unchanged for the third straight month and the lowest since the recession that began in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported. That marks a continued improvement with 6.576 million people unemployed at the end of 2017 compared to 7.502 million jobless at the end of 2016.
However the overall statistics don’t tell the whole story. At the end of 2017 construction workers were experiencing a much higher jobless rate of 5.9 percent. And some low wage workers lost ground, the BLS reported. Retail sales shed 67,000 jobs for the year even though end of the year holiday sales were up. Farm workers and workers with less than a high school diploma experienced notable rises in unemployment. Despite these numbers, most job growth was in low-paying occupations according to the report. Health care added just under 300,000 for the year. Bars and restaurants – the lowest-paying occupation - added 248,600 jobs.
“While by some measures the economy has recovered, the top-line numbers mask important differences in the experiences of working people,” said Economic Policy Institute senior economist Elise Gould. “Wages need to grow much faster,” continued Gould, “and for a sustained period of time, before it’s safe to say we’ve fully recovered.”
December 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Great Recession.
“That we have still not fully dug ourselves out of the hole created by the financial crisis by this milestone is a stark reminder of how deep that hole was — and how unwise it was to turn towards austerity before the economy fully recovered. It is also important to remember the 2007 economy is an inadequate benchmark. The goal should be full employment, which we have not seen since 2000, not just returning to the weak labor market of 2007."