Markets & Economy

What effect could unemployment have on the election?

Gaps between historical employment rates of men/women and college educated workers could be telling
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its September unemployment report, which showed employment gaps between men and women, and college-educated and uneducated workers.
  • National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says the results of the report will have no impact on the current real estate market, which has been plagued by sky-high home prices and tightening inventory.

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With one month left until the United States elects a new President, the numbers in the new Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment report could shed some light on who’s voting for whom, according to Lawrence Yun.

The National Association of Realtors‘ chief economist noted today in a statement that “there will surely be big divergent voting patterns among men versus women and among those with college education and those without in November.”

He’s basing that statement on some employment gaps that the September 2016 BLS report measured — 68.4 percent of adult men have jobs, down from historic norms of 75 percent, while adult women are employed at roughly the same level of their gender’s historic norms (55.8 percent).

The situation looks better for men with a college degree: 72 percent of adult men with post-high-school degrees are working, but only 54 percent of adult men with only a high school education are working.

According to the report, the September unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, a 0.1 percentage point drop from August, and part of a year-long trend of essentially unchanged unemployment rates.

A study based on the 2008 election showed a positive correlation between unemployment rates and voting rates, which could support the idea that unemployed citizens are more likely to vote — and perhaps more likely to vote for change.

Unemployment in major worker groups

The unemployment rate for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (15.8 percent), Whites (4.4 percent), Blacks (8.3 percent) and Asians (3.9 percent) showed little to no change from August, with percentage point changes ranging from 0 to 0.4 percent.

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The only demographic to experience a hike in unemployment rates were Hispanics — whose rates jumped 0.8 percentage points to 6.4 percent.

An additional 284,000 people were unemployed less than five weeks, bringing the total to 2.6 million. Furthermore, the number of people unemployed more than 27 weeks stayed steady at 2 million.

The labor force participation rate and the employment population ratio also remained unchanged at 62.9 percent and 59.8 percent, respectively.

The number of people who are marginally attached to the workforce — those who are actively looking for work and can’t find it — has plateaued at 1.8 million, unchanged from September 2015. The rate of discouraged workers (who are not looking for work because they believe there is none available) has flattened at 553,000, also unchanged from last year.

What does this mean for the housing market?

“Given no major surprise in the data, the national outlook for real estate market remains essentially unchanged, with home sales expected to squeak out slight gains in 2016 and 2017 while commercial building vacancy rates should continue to fall,” said Yun.

His assertion falls in line with the latest reports from NAR and other associations, such as the California Association of Realtors, that show strengthening jobs outlooks, increasing incomes and historically low mortgage rates still aren’t enough to combat booming existing-home sales prices, weak inventory numbers and other concerns that are keeping buyers and sellers still.

The BLS surveys approximately 146,000 businesses and government agencies each month as part of its Current Employment Statistics (CES) program. These businesses and agencies represent approximately 623,000 individual worksites, and the CES collects data on employment, hours and earnings of workers on nonfarm payrolls.

Email Marian McPherson