September 2020 Jobs Report and Industry Update

 In E Tips


Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Bilingual children may lose less brain matter as they grow up”

“How to make AI trustworthy”

“New treatment for drug-resistant bacterial infections”

The Industrials:
“Make the best of bad reviews by leveraging consumer empathy”

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Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, and the unemployment rate fell to
8.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor
market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In August, an increase in government
employment largely reflected temporary hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also
occurred in retail trade, in professional and business services, in leisure and hospitality, and
in education and health services.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures
labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment
survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about
the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

In August, the unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points to 8.4 percent, and the number
of unemployed persons fell by 2.8 million to 13.6 million. Both measures have declined for 4
consecutive months but are higher than in February, by 4.9 percentage points and 7.8 million,
respectively. (See table A-1. For more information about how the household survey and its
measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the box note at the end of this news

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined in August for adult men (8.0
percent), adult women (8.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), Whites (7.3 percent), Blacks (13.0
percent), and Hispanics (10.5 percent). The jobless rate for Asians (10.7 percent) changed
little over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff decreased by 3.1 million in
August to 6.2 million, down considerably from the series high of 18.1 million in April. In August,
the number of permanent job losers increased by 534,000 to 3.4 million; this measure has risen by
2.1 million since February. The number of unemployed reentrants to the labor force declined by
263,000 to 2.1 million. (Reentrants are persons who previously worked but were not in the labor
force prior to beginning their job search.) (See table A-11.)

The number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than 5 weeks decreased by 921,000 to 2.3
million in August, and the number of persons jobless 5 to 14 weeks fell by 2.0 million to 3.1
million. The long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) numbered 1.6 million,
little changed over the month. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage point to 61.7 percent in August
but is 1.7 percentage points below its February level. Total employment, as measured by the
household survey, rose by 3.8 million in August to 147.3 million. The employment-population ratio
rose by 1.4 percentage points to 56.5 percent but is 4.6 percentage points lower than in
February. (See table A-1.)

In August, the number of persons who usually work full time rose by 2.8 million to 122.4 million,
and the number who usually work part time increased by 991,000 to 25.0 million. Part-time
workers accounted for about one-fourth of the over-the-month employment gain. (See table A-9.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as
involuntary part-time workers) declined by 871,000 to 7.6 million in August, reflecting a decrease
in the number of people who worked part time due to slack work or business conditions (-1.1
million). The number of involuntary part-time workers is 3.3 million higher than in February.
These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because
their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. This group includes
persons who usually work full time and persons who usually work part time. (See table A-8.)

In August, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job declined by
747,000 to 7.0 million; this measure is 2.0 million higher than in February. These individuals
were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4
weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally
attached to the labor force, at 2.1 million, changed little in August. These individuals had not
actively looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey but wanted a job, were available
for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. The number of discouraged
workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them,
decreased by 130,000 in August to 535,000. (See Summary table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In August, 24.3 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down
from 26.4 percent in July. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home
for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, 24.2 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their
employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not work at all or
worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down
from 31.3 million in July. Among those who reported in August that they were unable to work
because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 11.6 percent received at least some pay
from their employer for the hours not worked.

About 5.2 million persons not in the labor force in August were prevented from looking for work
due to the pandemic. This is down from 6.5 million in July. (To be counted as unemployed, by
definition, individuals must either be actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May to
help gauge the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. The data are not
seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months are
available online at

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, following increases of larger
magnitude in the prior 3 months. In August, nonfarm employment was below its February level by
11.5 million, or 7.6 percent. Government employment rose in August, largely reflecting temporary
hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, in professional and
business services, in leisure and hospitality, and in education and health services. (See table
B-1. For more information about how the establishment survey and its measures were affected by
the coronavirus pandemic, see the box note at the end of this news release.)

Employment in government increased by 344,000 in August, accounting for one-fourth of the over-
the-month gain in total nonfarm employment. A job gain in federal government (+251,000) reflected
the hiring of 238,000 temporary 2020 Census workers. Local government employment rose by 95,000
over the month. Overall, government employment is 831,000 below its February level.

Retail trade added 249,000 jobs in August, with almost half the growth occurring in general
merchandise stores (+116,000). Notable gains also occurred in motor vehicle and parts dealers
(+22,000), electronics and appliance stores (+21,000), and miscellaneous store retailers
(+17,000). Employment in retail trade is 655,000 lower than in February.

In August, employment in professional and business services increased by 197,000. More than half
of the gain occurred in temporary help services (+107,000). Architectural and engineering
services (+14,000), business support services (+13,000), and computer systems design and related
services (+13,000) also added jobs over the month. Employment in professional and business
services is 1.5 million below its February level.

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 174,000 in August, with about three-fourths
of the gain occurring in food services and drinking places (+134,000). Despite job gains
totaling 3.6 million over the last 4 months, employment in food services and drinking places is
down by 2.5 million since February.

In August, employment in education and health services increased by 147,000 but is 1.5 million
below February’s level. Health care employment increased by 75,000 over the month, with gains in
offices of physicians (+27,000), offices of dentists (+22,000), hospitals (+14,000), and home
health care services (+12,000). Elsewhere in health care, job losses continued in nursing and
residential care facilities (-14,000). Employment in private education rose by 57,000 over the

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 78,000 in August, with gains in warehousing
and storage (+34,000), transit and ground passenger transportation (+11,000), and truck
transportation (+10,000). Employment in transportation and warehousing is down by 381,000 since

The other services industry added 74,000 jobs in August, reflecting gains in membership
associations and organizations (+31,000), repair and maintenance (+29,000), and personal and
laundry services (+14,000). Employment in other services is 531,000 lower than in February.

Financial activities added 36,000 jobs in August, with most of the growth in real estate and
rental and leasing (+23,000). Employment in financial activities is down by 191,000 since

In August, manufacturing employment rose by 29,000, with gains concentrated in the nondurable
goods component (+27,000). Despite gains in recent months, employment in manufacturing is
720,000 below February’s level.

Employment in wholesale trade increased by 14,000 in August, reflecting an increase of 9,000
in the nondurable goods component. Wholesale trade employment has declined by 328,000 since

In August, employment changed little in mining, construction, and information.

In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11
cents to $29.47. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory
employees increased by 18 cents to $24.81, following a decrease of 10 cents in the prior month.
The large employment fluctuations over the past several months–especially in industries with
lower-paid workers–complicate the analysis of recent trends in average hourly earnings. (See
tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to
34.6 hours in August. In manufacturing, the workweek rose by 0.3 hour to 40.0 hours, and
overtime increased by 0.1 hour to 3.0 hours. The average workweek for production and
nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.0 hours. (See tables
B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down by 10,000, from
+4,791,000 to +4,781,000, and the change for July was revised down by 29,000, from +1,763,000
to +1,734,000. With these revisions, employment in June and July combined was 39,000 less than
previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses
and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of
seasonal factors.)

The Employment Situation for September is scheduled to be released on Friday, October 2, 2020,
at 8:30 a.m. (ET).

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Life Sciences:

“Bilingual children may lose less brain matter as they grow up”

Children and adolescents who speak more than one language may reach adulthood with more grey matter, according to a new study.

In a paper published in Brain Structure and Function, an international team of academics led by the University of Reading and Georgetown University looked at detailed scans of children’s and adolescents’ brains and found that bilingual participants had potential advantages of both grey and white matter than similarly-aged children who spoke only one language.

While bilingualism has previously been shown to positively affect brain structure and cognitive performance in adults, the paper is the most comprehensive analysis to date showing that the effect of speaking more than one language may have similar impacts on developing brains.

Dr Christos Pliatsikas, the leader of the project and an Associate Professor of Psycholinguistics in Bi and Multilinguals at the University of Reading said:

“Grey matter in the brain decreases from an early age, but our study found that key brain areas showed less such shrinkage in bilinguals than monolinguals during development.”

“In previous studies, we’ve already seen that bilingualism has a positive effect on grey and white matter in adult brains, but this is the first time we’ve seen strong evidence for these effects in children and adolescents as well.”

Dr Michael Ullman, senior author on the paper and Professor of Neuroscience at Georgetown University Medical Center, said: “It may be the case that the effects on the brain that we have seen in adult bilinguals have their roots in childhood. We will be looking more at this in future studies.”

More grey matter

The brain scans showed that the loss in grey matter that children and adolescents experience during development was less pronounced in bilinguals than those who only spoke one language.

Grey matter refers to the portions of the brain where the bodies of brain cells are found, such as around the surface of the brain (called the cortex). White matter refers to parts of the brain containing the connections between brain cells, allowing them to communicate (the connections are white because they are insulated with fat).

The study found that that the bilinguals kept more grey matter during brain development, and also increased white matter, suggesting more efficient brain communication. In both cases the effects were found mainly in brain areas linked to language learning and use.

Dr Christos Pliatsikas said: “This is an important study for two reasons. The first is that by looking at the brains of children and adolescents, we can start to see how and when bilingualism has an effect on the brain during language development. While we’ve previously looked at differences between bilingual and monolingual adult brains at static points, here we see the effect of bilingualism on the brain as we develop.”

“Second, the impact of bilingualism on grey and white matter may have a number of wider benefits for language and cognitive function, such as performance in tasks related to attention and executive control, which have been suggested to be enhanced in older bilinguals. Overall, the findings indicate that encouraging bilingualism in childhood may have benefits later in life.”

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“How to make AI trustworthy”

One of the biggest impediments to adoption of new technologies is trust in AI.

Now, a new tool developed by USC Viterbi Engineering researchers generates automatic indicators if data and predictions generated by AI algorithms are trustworthy. Their research paper, “There Is Hope After All: Quantifying Opinion and Trustworthiness in Neural Networks” by Mingxi Cheng, Shahin Nazarian and Paul Bogdan of the USC Cyber Physical Systems Group, was featured in Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence.

Neural networks are a type of artificial intelligence that are modeled after the brain and generate predictions. But can the predictions these neural networks generate be trusted? One of the key barriers to adoption of self-driving cars is that the vehicles need to act as independent decision-makers on auto-pilot and quickly decipher and recognize objects on the road — whether an object is a speed bump, an inanimate object, a pet or a child — and make decisions on how to act if another vehicle is swerving towards it. Should the car hit the oncoming vehicle or swerve and hit what the vehicle perceives to be an inanimate object or a child? Can we trust the computer software within the vehicles to make sound decisions within fractions of a second — especially when conflicting information is coming from different sensing modalities such as computer vision from cameras or data from lidar? Knowing which systems to trust and which sensing system is most accurate would be helpful to determine what decisions the autopilot should make.

Lead author Mingxi Cheng was driven to work on this project by this thought: “Even humans can be indecisive in certain decision-making scenarios. In cases involving conflicting information, why can’t machines tell us when they don’t know?”

A tool the authors created named DeepTrust can quantify the amount of uncertainty,” says Paul Bogdan, an associate professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and corresponding author, and thus, if human intervention is necessary.

Developing this tool took the USC research team almost two years employing what is known as subjective logic to assess the architecture of the neural networks. On one of their test cases, the polls from the 2016 Presidential election, DeepTrust found that the prediction pointing towards Clinton winning had a greater margin for error.

The other significance of this study is that it provides insights on how to test reliability of AI algorithms that are normally trained on thousands to millions of data points. It would be incredibly time-consuming to check if each one of these data points that inform AI predictions were labeled accurately. Rather, more critical, say the researchers, is that the architecture of these neural network systems has greater accuracy. Bogdan notes that if computer scientists want to maximize accuracy and trust simultaneously, this work could also serve as guidepost as to how much “noise” can be in testing samples.

The researchers believe this model is the first of its kind. Says Bogdan, “To our knowledge, there is no trust quantification model or tool for deep learning, artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is the first approach and opens new research directions.” He adds that this tool has the potential to make “artificial intelligence aware and adaptive.”

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“New treatment for drug-resistant bacterial infections”

A new antibacterial agent that has been engineered by researchers at Dartmouth to essentially hide from the human immune system may treat life-threatening MRSA infections. A new paper, published today in Science Advances, provides details on the agent, which is the first lysin-based treatment with the potential to be used multiple times on a single patient, making it ideal to treat particularly persistent drug-resistant and drug-sensitive infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has prioritized finding effective treatment of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most common bacterial pathogens and the single most deadly drug-resistant bacteria in the United States. Now, a new study led by Dartmouth Engineering faculty shows promise for an engineered lysin-based antibacterial agent that may enable safe, repeated dosing to treat life-threatening infections by MRSA and other types of S. aureus.

In recent years, lysins — enzymes naturally produced by microbes and associated viruses — have shown potential to treat S. aureus, which can rapidly acquire resistance to other types of antibiotic drugs.

“Lysins are one of the most promising next-generation antibiotics. They kill drug-sensitive and drug-resistant bacteria with equal efficacy, they can potentially suppress new resistance phenotypes, and they also have this laser-like precision,” said Karl Griswold, corresponding author and associate professor of engineering at Dartmouth.

While there is promise in lysins, development has been slowed due to concerns that they prompt humans’ immune systems to develop antidrug antibodies, which can have negative side effects including life-threatening hypersensitivity reactions.

That’s why the Dartmouth Engineering team — which also included researchers in Dartmouth’s computer science department, The Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Lyticon, and Stealth Biologics — engineered and patented F12, a new lysin-based antibacterial agent. F12 is essentially able to hide from the human immune system (due to T cell epitope deletion), and therefore does not cause the same negative side effects as unmodified, natural lysins.

F12 is the first lysin-based treatment with the potential to be used multiple times on a single patient, making it ideal to treat particularly persistent drug-resistant and drug-sensitive infections. Preclinical studies showed the efficacy of F12 does not diminish with repeated doses, while two other anti-MRSA lysin treatments currently in clinical trials are only designed to be used a single time.

“We have engineered this super potent, super effective anti-MRSA biotherapeutic, and we’ve done it in a way that renders it compatible with and largely invisible to the human immune system. By making it a safer drug, we’ve enabled the possibility of dosing multiple times in order to treat even the most highly refractory infections,” said Griswold.

The team’s paper, “Globally deimmunized lysostaphin evades human immune surveillance and enables highly efficacious repeat dosing,” was published earlier today by Science Advances. The work was the result of two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling $1.7 million.

The paper details the treatment’s positive results in rabbits, mice with partially-humanized immune systems, and studies with extracted human immune cells. Griswold believes the antibacterial agent could be ready for human clinical trials as soon as 2023.

“This is the first report of a translation-ready deimmunized lysin, and F12 has serious, bonafide clinical potential,” said Griswold.

Further studies of F12 will examine synergy with standard-of-care antibacterial chemotherapies; preliminary results suggest the combinations are extremely potent and suppress drug-resistance phenotypes.

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The Industrials:

“Make the best of bad reviews by leveraging consumer empathy”

Researchers from Nanyang Technical University, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines “unfair” negative reviews and demonstrates that they can have positive consequences for the reviewed firm.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Negative Reviews, Positive Impact: Consumer Empathetic Responding to Unfair Word-of-Mouth” and is authored by Thomas Allard, Lea Dunn, and Katherine White.

Negative online reviews are abundant. Negative reviews generally provide diagnostic information about the inferior performance of the firm, which helps consumers make better decisions about their purchases. Those negative reviews usually lead to adverse consumer reactions such as decreased purchase or customer dislike for the brand. However, not all negative reviews are built from the same cloth. In some instances, the intensity of the negative reviews is not justified given the actions of the firm. These “unfair” negative reviews can have positive consequences for the reviewed firm.

Using six studies and four supplemental experiments (studying over 3,000 consumers), the research team provides converging evidence that unfairness in negative reviews evokes empathy for the firm from third-party consumers reading the reviews. This empathy is associated with increased purchase and patronage intentions. A study on the content of one thousand 1 — and 2- star hotel reviews from Trip Advisor finds that more than a quarter of these negative reviews contained elements that were perceived to be unfair, offering preliminary evidence about the prevalence of “unfair” negative reviews.

Allard explains that “Our findings suggest that unfair negative reviews consistently result in more favorable responses to the reviewed firm than fair negative reviews and, at times, even better than positive reviews. We highlight the role of empathy for the firm as a motivator for increased favorable firm intentions. We also identify how firms can leverage empathy from consumers reading reviews, even for those reviews that do not naturally evoke empathy.” The first suggestion is to respond to all reviews in a manner that is more personable in visual appearance and tone (e.g., show your employees, use first names, respond from a person instead of a “brand”). The second suggestion is to spotlight the employees involved in the creation of the product or service (e.g., employee profiles, “meet your barista,” naming the employee who helped make the product).

“Overall, our research highlights that unfair negative reviews are not necessarily bad for the brand and that firms can learn to capitalize on these reviews” says Dunn. By embracing the reviews, as some companies have done in the past (e.g., Ski Resorts, National Parks, Vienna Tourism all turned ridiculous 1-star reviews into something positive in their advertising campaigns), firms can strategically leverage consumer empathy and benefit from potential downstream consequences.

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