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We have an encouraging jobs report but we are still 10M jobs lower than we were in Feb.: Professor

Bill Rodgers, Rutgers University Professor joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest jobs numbers.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to shift our focus over to what we saw here on the jobs market. We, of course, got the jobs report for October there. The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 jobs. That was a bit stronger than the 580,000 economists were expecting. The unemployment rate also fell sharply to 6.9%.

So here to discuss that with us is Professor Bill Rodgers, Rutgers University professor, as well as a member of President Obama's transition team back then. Professor Rodgers, appreciate you coming on to chat with us today. First off, just your take on what that recovery here seems to indicate because we have seen job gains slowing. A lot of concerns about that heading into the winter months. So what's your take from the report?

BILL RODGERS: Sure. Yeah, so you know, one month doesn't make a trend. But if you look at the private sector growth particularly, you are back closer to a million, which would then represent, I believe, an uptick over the last month, over the last few months. And so that's good news.

And the other good news with the unemployment rate is that in some of the months, we've seen the unemployment rate fall. It was falling because people were leaving the labor force because we shut the economy down, or we weren't reopening it up-- reopening it that quickly.

But this time, the unemployment rate fell largely because people were getting jobs coming in from outside the labor force and getting jobs. So on one hand, a very strong and encouraging report. But that's still 10 million jobs below where we were in February.

AKIKO FUJITA: And also, when you look at the pain that's being felt in the market, it is very different among demographics, particularly women and minorities. You point out that those jobless rates have now surpassed 10% to 15%. Are things about to get worse from here, or have we started-- is this kind of where the bottom is?

BILL RODGERS: Well, I think the bottom, hopefully, was April. April was truly a horrendous month. And since then, we have seen unemployment rates for all groups, even young, less educated minority men and for women, who my colleague who runs the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Nicole Mason, called this a "she session." That because of where the cuts have been in various industries, women and minorities, as you say, Akiko, have borne the brunt the worst.

Today, as of September, October, their unemployment rates are still higher, particularly young people. Richard Freeman, economist from Harvard and a colleague, we have a forthcoming study out of the Century Foundation probably in the next week or so that's going to highlight what's happened to these young people.

And particularly, we need to focus on them going forward with more of items in the stimulus package, a recovery package for them. Because if we don't, their elevated unemployment rates and if we go into the winter or we have to shut down or slow down more, their higher unemployment rates are going to translate into loss of income-- loss of lifetime income and opportunity.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, professor, I mean, when we talk about that, that does seem to be a key worry here. Not only on the stimulus front or what could happen if this becomes a protracted legal battle on the presidency and how this election has gone, but there are also questions about the administration passing over. I know, as I said, you were a member of Obama's transition team.

What does this kind of back and forth in question marks around the legality of the election results here, what does that do to maybe stall not only the stimulus question mark there, but also what happens for Joe Biden trying to plan some of his responses to this pandemic if he kind of has a nasty passing of the baton, if you will, of President Trump?

BILL RODGERS: Yeah, well, I guess, there's several good news points. One is, I was an informal advisor for the campaign and served on an Economic Committee with him for him. And we worked on a variety of projects. One was a first day set of initiatives across the government. I was focused on labor issues, workplace issues. And then also, things to do in the first 100 days.

So, a lot of planning already has been going on to help with that transition. The challenge will be is if this does get delayed, it could push back when those transition teams get into the buildings to meet with staff.

And the other good news there is the staff that you typically-- I met with were the career staff, the career staff at the Department of Labor. And for me, my assignment was working with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and getting a survey, doing an inventory of what their critical needs were, what their critical needs are going forward, reporting that back to my team. And then that sort of bubbled up to the leadership.

So, you know, on the one hand, I'm pretty optimistic that-- and partly because you'll be working with career people. And so as long as we can get in-- people can get in that building pretty quickly, as long as they continue to do their planning, which I'm sure they have been doing, this will be a pretty-- I think as best as possible of a smooth transition.

AKIKO FUJITA: I want to get back to what you said earlier about these demographic groups that have been hit the hardest in the jobs market. Because women in particular, pretty well documented throughout this pandemic, those who have really struggled to balance the childcare aspect, as well as the jobs aspect. And we have seen many women go part-time or even drop out of the workforce altogether. How concerned are you that that will have a much more longer impact beyond the pandemic? How are you looking at that specifically?

BILL RODGERS: Well, that's a great question. So with my students, I like to talk about and remind them that, basically, economic growth is a sum of productivity growth and population growth. And what you just highlighted there are issues around productivity, right? That if women-- and not just women. I'm a single dad. My kids are now out of the house, but they still-- they were here a long time during the pandemic.

But, you know, it impacted my productivity. And I think, you know, there's always-- people say, take advantage of a crisis, right? And the crisis here is around childcare, around elder care. And so I think going forward, regardless of what kind of the who or what administration is involved, there is going to be a much stronger push for really broad-based and deeper and high quality support of the family with regard to taking care of children and elder care.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, you know, I didn't have to worry about that. But my productivity took a hit as well. I think a lot of people share that sentiment here in 2020. Professor Rodgers from Rutgers, appreciate you joining us and taking the time. Thanks again.

BILL RODGERS: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.