Low Unemployment, Rising Wages Benefiting Underprivileged

Historically low unemployment and rising wages indicate that the benefits of the current economic expansion are widespread, which likely will increase President Trump’s reelection chances. Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday shows the labor force remains tight, with the unemployment rate at historic lows and an increase in the labor force participation rate.

  • The headline unemployment rate in December remained at 3.5 percent, matching the lowest rate since May 1969. Broader measures of unemployment are all at the series low.
  • 74.2 percent of workers entering employment in the fourth quarter came from out of the labor force rather than from unemployment, which is the highest share since the series began in 1990. 
  • The labor force participation rate for prime-age adults (ages 25-54) up to 82.9 percent in December—1.6 percentage points above the rate in November 2016.

Historically disadvantaged workers–who are increasingly becoming swing voters–are seeing the most benefits as employers raise wages to attract and retain workers. December marks the 17th consecutive month that average hourly earnings growth for production non-supervisory workers has been at or above 3 percent. 

  • Wages for workers are growing faster than for managers
  • Wages for those without a bachelor’s degree are growing faster than for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Wages for individuals at the bottom of the income scale are growing faster than for those at the top.
  • Wages for African Americans are growing faster than for white Americans.

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