Friday, November 4, 2011

Breaking Down Employment

BusinessWeek details:

U.S. employment climbed in October at the slowest pace in four months, illustrating the “frustratingly slow” progress cited by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke this week.
The 80,000 increase in payrolls was less than forecast and followed gains in the prior two months that were revised up by 102,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The unemployment rate fell to a six-month low of 9 percent from 9.1 percent even as the labor force expanded.
The above 80,000 figure was non-farm payroll. Taking a deeper dive into the household data (the figure used for the unemployment rate and one that historical has better captured any upturn in employment), we see a slightly improved, but sluggish employment recovery.

Month over Month
  • 277,000 more employed individuals (better than the headline payroll figure of 80,000)
  • 95,000 less unemployed (the difference being population growth)
  • Only 17,000 individuals leaving the labor force


The sluggishness of the recovery can be seen below in both the longer term picture of unemployed (i.e. unemployment rate) and underemployed (i.e. broader total unemployment), which remains extremely elevated.

How About the Levels

Another way to view the magnitude of the downturn and lack of recovery is below. While the number of individuals employed is roughly 3% higher than seen 10 years ago, the number after normalization for population growth is down a whopping 8% and has not seen any improvement since the downturn (i.e. since the downturn in employment bottomed, the rate of employment growth has matched population growth).

Source: BLS

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