Economic conditions may play less of a role in the scourge of recent opioid overdose deaths than the easy availability and low cost of the illicit drugs, according to a new paper.
The study by University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm disputes the idea that areas in economic decline experience a higher rate of “deaths of despair,” and argues “the drug environment rather than economy is the key driver in rising drug fatalities.”
The pace of hiring slowed in December, but the U.S. unemployment rate held at a 17-year low, suggesting it is becoming more difficult for employers to find workers.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 148,000 in December, the Labor Department said. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, matching the lowest level since December 2000 for the third straight month. Hourly wages improved modestly and rose 2.5% from a year earlier. Economists expected 180,000 new jobs and a 4.1% unemployment rate.
Black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest ever recorded by the U.S. Labor Department since it began tracking the black unemployment rate in 1972.
Economists say it's a sign the recovery from the Great Recession is finally starting to help a wider swath of the U.S. population.
Though the labor market has grown robustly nationwide this year, progress has been uneven across blue states and red states. An increasing number of people in red states have stopped looking for work, while a larger share of people in blue states are actively in the workforce.
Statewide unemployment also fell sharply in November, to 4.6 percent from 4.9 percent a month earlier. The 4.6 percent statewide rate is the lowest since 1976, according to data compiled by economist Sung Won Sohn of CSU Channel Islands. The EDD said California employers added 47,400 workers to their payrolls last month. Although much of the job growth in November was seasonal, as employers geared up for the holidays, the new numbers also dovetail with other signs that the economy has been continuing to perk along in recent months.