Perhaps you’ve heard it on the news; notwithstanding dismal numbers in manufacturing and many other industries, and a rise in jobless claims, unemployment “dropped” last month.
We’ll come back to that.
Each percentage point in the “unemployment” figures represent about three million workers, give or take (2.5, 2.7, whatever; lots of workers). Thus, a gain or loss of a full point in unemployment means somewhere between 2.5-3 million jobs, one way or the other.
A tent of a point, thus, means around 250-300 thousand jobs.
Now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 114,000 new jobs were created last month which, all other things being equal and fudging up a bit means about a .04%.
The BLS also says that the workforce participation rate rose by .1%, to 63.6% of the labor force, up just a hair from a 30-year low. That means a net of roughly 250-300 thousand people returned to a work force…
…that didn’t even add enough jobs to account for the monthly growth in the population (we need to add 200,000 jobs a month just to break even).
My radio colleague Ed Morrissey notes:
The number of unemployed dropped 456,000 last month, while only 114,000 jobs got added. That either means that 342,000 people left the US, or they left the work force in one way or another. In the household survey, though, the number of people with jobs rose by 873,000 — a very strange outcome that makes it appear that more than one tweak has been done to previous data. (The +873K is in the seasonally adjusted number, by the way.)
Beyond that? As Ed also points out, the U6 unemployment rate – which includes the marignally-employed and part-time workers along with the traditional “unemployed” – has been holding rock-steady at 14.7% – roughly where it’s been all year long.
So to sum it up:
- The economy didn’t add enough jobs to keep up with populations growth
- 300,000 people came back to the job market on top of the population growth
- the percentage of the marginally-employed and unemployed stayed exactly even…
…but unemployment dropped by 800,000?
Does that mean 400,000 people got 20-hour-a-week jobs at McDonald’s or what?
I’m going to guess “or what”.
Where “Or what” means “the BLS is practicing Chicago Math the month before an election”.
UPDATE: Charlie Martin at PJM breaks it down. The economy added a slew of part-time jobs, enough to keep ahead of the 450,000 jobs lost. What that may show us, as Charlie says, is that it’s getting to be too expensive to hire employees full-time.