Free Markets, Free People
Unemployment situation for July
The headline numbers for the the July employment situation show that 117,000 new non-farm payroll jobs were added last month, while the unemployment rate dropped to 9.1%. But, the true story is—as we’ve come to expect—more complicated when you delve below the fold.
Private payrolls rose by 154,000 jobs, while government payrolls declined by 37,000. Average weekly hours were unchanged at 34.3, while hourly earning rose slightly to $23.13.
The decline in the unemployment rate to 9.1 was not a reflection of the increase in non-farm payrolls, but a decline of 193,000 in the labor force, as workers dropped out of the labor market. As a result, the labor force participation rate continued to decline to 63.9%. In addition, the total number of employed persons declined from 139,334,000 to 139,296,000, meaning that 38,000 fewer people were actually working last month, compared to June.
The U-4 unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers, held steady at 9.8%, while the broadest measure of unemployment/underemployment, the U-6, which includes workers who have part-time jobs for economic reasons, dropped 0.1% to 16.1%.
Overall, the report is not positive. At best, it can be said that we’re about the same last month as we were in June. The trend over the last few months is not good, however, as the table below illustrates.
|Mar 2011||July 2011|
Finally, if we go back to the historical average of labor force participation prior to the recession, which was 66.2%, the proper size of the labor force should be 158,662,000, rather than 153,228,000. Use that figure to calculate the employment rate with the 139,334,000 persons actually employed, and you get an actual unemployment rate of 12.2% for July. The caveat here, of course, is that with the first tranche of Baby Boomers so close to retirement, some number have just retired early and are out of the labor force permanently, so that historical participation rate may no longer be valid.
In any event, once you add in the workers who’ve gotten discouraged, and workers who have part-time jobs because full-time employment isn’t available, this month’s employment report makes it clear that real unemployment is actually back on the rise.