Friday, December 4, 2009

Today's Jobs Numbers

There is a lot of hoopla being made about the jobs numbers released today that show the economy only losing 11,000 jobs. As is frequently reported, the unemployment numbers only measure the number of people who are able and actively looking for work. They do not count the underemployed (people with part-time jobs), or the discouraged (those that have given up). The BLS also publishes a number that somewhat includes those workers that is called the U-6 unemployment rate (rather than the U-3 rate that gets reported). That rate is currently at 17.6%, which gives a better picture of what the unemployment situation is actually like. (Thanks, MintBlog!)

I had heard some time back that the economy needs to create 120,000 or so jobs per month just to stay even because of population growth. So even when we hit positive job growth, the economy could still be considered to be shedding jobs (unless there are no new immigrants or new entrances to the workforce, which of course never happens).

I thought I'd look at the BLS numbers that include those outside the workforce to try to get a different picture of the jobs situation between, say September and November, the time that the media is reporting sharply reduced job losses (Is that a double negative?).

(Source: BLS) Numbers in Thousands from the Household Data:

September November
Labor Force 154,912 154,006
Employed 140,591 138,502
Unemployed 14,321 15,375
Not in Force 80,547 82,866

So by my back of the napkin calculations, there are 1,400,000 more people counted (adult population), and 2,089,000 fewer people working. While there are 3.3 Million more people in the country who are not working, only about 1 million of those are counted as additionally unemployed.

There may be all kinds of reasons to look at the data the way the media does, but the situation is not likely to be felt as improving by real people until these trends start to turn around and there is a net gain of jobs and employed people. The household data did show 227,000 more people working in November than October, so perhaps that is a sign of things to come.

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