Free Markets, Free People

unemployment

Quote of the Day: Unemployment reality check edition

James Pethokoukis provides us with the quote (a little context when you hear all the “sunshine and roses” employment reports):

[T]o restore the job market to the state it was in back in 2007, before the recession, would require the creation of 14.8 million jobs in today’s terms, a daunting task to say the least.

FRED supplies the graphic:

 

040212obamajobsgap

 

Enough said.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The economy: A little graphic context

This chart will blow you away (via James Pethakoukis):

 

032612gapingmaw

 

The NY Fed explains:

The first figure shows how these three labor market variables evolved over the four post-1973 business cycles (excluding the short 1980 cycle), along with developments in the Great Recession and current recovery. We start at the lowest level of the unemployment rate before the recession and then follow the changes for three years after the rate reaches its maximum level. For the current expansion, the maximum unemployment rate occurred in October 2009.

The employment-to-population ratio displays a classic V-shape recession and recovery pattern in the 1970s and 1980s. In the recession and recovery of the early 1990s, however, the employment-to-population ratio instead displays a U shape, only returning to its pre-recession level three years after the peak in the unemployment rate. In the recession and recovery of the early 2000s, neither the participation rate nor the employment-to-population ratio returns to its previous level, so we see an incomplete U-shape pattern.

In the most recent cycle, the employment-to-population ratio traces out an L shape, but the unemployment rate falls because the participation rate declines substantially (a much more gradual decline was expected by many given the aging of the baby boomers); in other words, a larger share of the population is out of the labor force rather than participating and being unemployed.

We’ve seen a lot of happy talk about how well the economy is doing now.  Most of that comes from the media which has about as much of a grasp on the economy and how it works as does the current occupant of the White House.

A look at those four recessionary cycles gives context to the depth of the one we’re currently battling.    If you look closely at the part of the chart depicting our current situation, you realize that while we’ve seemingly bottomed out, the employment-to-population ratio is not rising.   And that, of course, is because of the horrendous drop in the labor force participation.

It points out two things – one that the “official” unemployment rate should be taken with a grain of salt.   And two, that the stimulus had little apparent effect (sorry, but I don’t buy the “it could have been worse” argument.  We have no way of knowing that) if the purpose was to shorten the recessionary cycle and keeping employment below 8%.  It did neither of those things.

Finally, no matter what numbers and happy talk the media and administration throw out there, unemployment and the state of the economy are a very personal things to voters.  Those who remain unemployed certainly aren’t seeing an “improvement” in the economy from where they sit.  And it is from there they’ll make their decision as to who they’ll vote for in November.  All the media smoke and mirrors about the improving economy aren’t likely to sway those who remain unemployed or are underemployed to see it their way.  They’ll, instead, vote the reality of their situation and are unlikely to vote for the candidate who they feel has done little to ameliorate their situation.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Are the recent employment gains real?

Over the last several months, we’ve seen moderate gains in non-farm payroll jobs, with the rate of job creation running at about 200,000 jobs a month. That’s seems good, as does the continuing drop in initial claims for unemployment to around the 350,000 level weekly.

The thing is, how real is this job creation, in an environment where the past year showed a rate of GDP growth of 1.8%, and the most optimistic forecasts for this year indicate a 2.5% rate of GDP growth? Those rates of growth are significantly below the long-term trend rate of growth for the US economy, which is between 3% and 3,5% per year. How is employment increasing when GDP growth is so slow?

Well, the answer is, it may not be.  Take a look at the charts below, They are taken from the historical A tables of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) household survey. This is the survey where households provide employment data.

The first chart shows the number of people in the Household survey who’ve declared themselves to be employed since January of 2002.

AChart1

That does indeed indicate a moderate rate of employment growth since January of 2010. So far, so good.

The next chart, however, shows those who are employed as a percentage of the civilian, non-institutional, adult population.

AChart2

This provides a far more negative picture of employment. Essentially, the percentage of the population that is employed has crashed, and the percentage of employed was lower in 2011 than it was in 2010. As a percentage of the adult population, peak employment has declined every year since 2007.

Essentially, a additional 4% of the adult population is now jobless, compared to 2007, and that jobless percentage has been increasing, not decreasing, over the last two years, despite mild declines in the official unemployment rate.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

The unemployment numbers: good news, but lack context [UPDATE]

Obviously any time you are in a recession and the employment numbers are in positive territory, that’s good news.  And, as Dale reported below, last month we saw jobs grow by 227,000.

But … and you knew there had to be one… what does that mean in relation to the job losses we’ve suffered during this recession?

In the past, the number for this month would have been a good number because it would have reflected a maintenance level of job creation.  Essentially the number of jobs created kept pace with the expansion of the labor market as new workers entered it.

But we’ve lost millions and millions of jobs in the past 39 months.  So what is it going to take just to get back to even (i.e. where we were prior to the recession)?

Here’s an infographic  to graphically present the problem:

16421_MonthlyJobsChart-Feb_01.indd

To actually climb out of the unemployment hole that the recession dug, we need to see 755,000 jobs a month for 7 months to bring us back to pre-recession job levels.  Why 7 months?  Heh … well, you figure it out.

UPDATE: According to James Pethakoukis, the unemployment rate also lacks validity.  He makes a point Dale has made any number of times:

If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office—65.7% then vs. 63.9% today—the U-3 unemployment rate would be 10.8%.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The jobs report

A good job report this month drops the “official” unemployment rate to 8.3%.  That, of course, will be touted as significant progress and, on one level, it is.  The number of jobs created is above the maintenance level.  That means a real net gain.

But there are some underlying numbers that are much less positive.

While the job creation is “well above expectations”, there’s another record that masks the real unemployment number.

Namely 1.2 million workers (another record) fell out of the labor force.  That’s one reason the official rate looks good. 

And, probably the most important number to be considered – the labor participation rate – fell to 63.7% which is a 30 year low and reflects the loss of those 1.2 million workers from the work force.  Neither of those numbers are good.

That said, the report on the numbers of jobs created is a good report and may signal some growth. It is, for a change, above the maintenance level of jobs.   But you have to keep in mind that in overall terms, and despite the official numbers, the job situation still has a very, very long way to go.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

CBO forecast for 2012– another trillion dollar deficit and 8.9% unemployment

Speaking of the record compiled under the Obama administration, the CBO provides plenty of ammo for the GOP:

The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday predicted the deficit will rise to $1.08 trillion in 2012.

The office also projected the jobless rate would rise to 8.9 percent by the end of 2012, and to 9.2 percent in 2013.

That’s because it has revised its previous estimate as the GDP growth numbers for last year were revised down.

Additionally, and reading between the lines, it also means that the administration and Congress has yet to even begin to get a handle on the main problem – spending.

Of course part of that stands to reason when you take into consideration the Democratic controlled Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over 1,000 days.

The Hill, ever the master of understatement, gives you a peek at what should be obvious:

A rising deficit and unemployment rate would hamper President Obama’s reelection effort, which in recent weeks has seemed to be on stronger footing.

“Hamper"?”   It should put it in the crapper.  Or so you would think.  But then there’s the GOP primary going on, huh?

CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told reporters that Congress will have to make important choices this year regarding the supercommittee trigger and tax policy that will have huge effects on the deficit.

While unable to recommend choices, Elmendorf said that addressing the deficit sooner rather than later is easier.

The deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and $1.3 trillion in 2011. The largest deficit recorded before that was $458 billion in 2008.

Well, of course addressing the deficit sooner rather than later is a lot easier.  Haven’t we been saying that for years?  Decades?

Anyone think it will be addressed in this next year?  Consider what the CBO recommends:

The deficit will be much higher if Congress takes several actions that many expect.

If the Bush tax rates are extended, for example, the deficit would rise.

It would rise if Congress patches the Alternative Minimum Tax, which lawmakers have routinely done to prevent higher taxes from being imposed on middle class taxpayers.

It would also rise if Congress continues to pass the “doc fix” that prevents a cut to Medicare payments to doctors, something that Congress has done on a near-annual basis.

Finally, if Congress does not follow through on cuts mandated by the failure of the supercommittee, the deficit will grow. Lawmakers are already talking about canceling scheduled cuts to the Pentagon’s budget.

So, let’s see – raise taxes, lower taxes, subsidize and cut spending. Or is that last one, cut projected spending?

*sigh*

The “doc fix”, unless passed, will see Doctors leave Medicare in droves.   I certainly would if I were in their shoes.  Any guesses how that turns out?

And while the Democrats only want the “rich” to pay higher taxes, if the current tax rates (also known as the “Bush tax cut”) are allowed to revert to their prior percentages, taxes will increase 30% on everyone by 2014.  Catch 22?

The amount of money the federal government takes out of the U.S. economy in taxes will increase by more than 30 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to the Budget and Economic Outlook published today by the CBO.

At the same time, according to CBO, the economy will remain sluggish, partly because of higher taxes.

You don’t say?  Stupid if you do, damned if you don’t?  Nice position we’ve gotten ourselves in, no?

And finally, sequestration will “cut” 10% across the board, to include defense which has already taken that sort of a cut.  Dangerous.

However, for the rest of the government, I expect the usual accounting tricks with no real cuts in spending if sequestration is enacted.

As for taxes increasing, the increase is fairly dramatic at a time the economy can’t absorb such increases:

The anticipated percentage increase in federal tax revenue is not only large when calculated in dollar terms but also when calculated as a share of GDP. The jump from 15.4 percent of GDP in fiscal 2011 to 20.0 percent of GDP in fiscal 2014 equals an increase of 29.8 percent. The jump from 16.3 percent in fiscal 2012 to 20.0 percent in fiscal 2014 equals an increase over two years of 22.7 percent.

Federal tax revenues have averaged “about 18 percent of GDP for the past 40 years,” according to CBO. So, in the next two years federal tax revenues will rise from a level that is below the modern historical average to a level that is above it.

Again I’m reduced to saying “what a freakin’ mess”.  When I say over and over again, “we’ve been ill served by our political class for decades”, it is this to which I point.

Yes, all of this and the never mentioned additional 200 plus trillion in unfunded future mandated liabilities that have been amassed.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

One more time: The unemployment numbers in context

Context is one of those tricky words for some.  Because, when applied, it tends to trip up their attempts to shade news a certain way.  Without it, they’re much more able to do their shading than when context is added to their formulation.

Take the unemployment numbers – the “official” unemployment numbers.  We’re supposed to believe that everything is getting better because that number has come down from 10% to its current “official” level of 8.5%.  

But when one digs into that number, it becomes apparent that one can only get to 8.5% if one is willing to write off over a million American workers who’ve somehow “vanished” from the labor force.

Or in other words, in context, with those workers being added back in as they should be, our unemployment rate is much higher than 8.5%.  Dale has explained this many times.  I’ve pointed it out a few times.  Investors Business Daily does it this time:

In the 30 months since the recession officially ended, nearly 1 million people have dropped out of the labor force — they aren’t working, and they aren’t looking — according to data from Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the past two months, the labor force shrank by 170,000.

This is virtually unprecedented in past economic recoveries, at least since the BLS has kept detailed records. In the past nine recoveries, the labor force had climbed an average 3.5 million by this point, according to an IBD analysis of the BLS data.

"Given weak job prospects, many would-be workers dropped out of (or never entered) the labor force," noted Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute in her analysis of the BLS jobs report issued last Friday. "That reduces the measured unemployment rate but does not represent real improvement."

According to the BLS, the "labor force participation rate" — the ratio of the number of people either working or looking for work compared with the entire working-age population — is now 64%, down from 65.7% when the recession ended in June 2009. That’s the lowest level since women began entering the workforce in far greater numbers several decades ago.

That “labor force participation rate” hasn’t changed significantly.  In fact, given our expanding population, it has probably remained at least the same.  What the “official” number does is ignore the missing million plus workers and thereby misrepresent the true level of unemployment in this country.   That official number also hides the real problem that IBD’s chart shows us – something unprecedented in past recoveries:

 

WEBa1jobs0113.gif

 

Labor force growth, as you might imagine, is one of the indicators of a recovering economy.  Instead we seem to be in the middle of fooling ourselves that such a recovery is happening by viewing a falling “official” unemployment number as an indictor of progress in that area.  I’m not sure how one can make that argument – in context, as provided by this chart.

IBD goes on to outline what this all means in the long run:

Not only does the shrunken labor force mask the real size of the unemployment problem in the country — since only those actively looking for work are counted as unemployed — it likely means that economic growth will be subpar going forward.

[…]

The weak job market has also helped depress wages. Real median annual household income has dropped 5.1% since the recession ended, more than the 3.2% decline during the recession itself — according to a new Sentier Research report.

The smaller labor force is just one of the problems with the current unemployment number. The other is that the jobs being created aren’t keeping pace with population growth. Since June 2009, the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, which is below the more than 2 million needed to keep up with population growth and far below the gains experienced at the same point in the previous 10 recoveries — which saw job gains average more than 4 million.

So, what has happened?  Well there are all sorts of explanations being bandied about – Baby Boomers choosing retirement instead of seeking work, etc.  But the fact remains, as IBD points out, “the labor force had been climbing until Obama took office. In fact, it peaked in May 2009, the month before the recession officially ended.”

That sort of dampens the “Baby Boomer retirement” explanation and leaves us again searching for an answer.

The whole point of this post, however, isn’t so much wrapped up in the answer, but the context of the problem.  Or said another way, you’re being led down the primrose path with the “official” unemployment number and here’s why. 

Context.   A dirty word to those who would prefer to feed you false sunshine via their “official” numbers.  But when you look at their numbers remember that you’re mostly looking at contextless nonsense. 

Oh, and if you’re not depressed enough:

The Economic Policy Institute calculates that when you add the number of jobs lost in the recession and the growth in the working age population over the past few years, the "jobs deficit," as EPI calls it, "remains well over 10 million."

There’s also the problem of people who want full-time work not being able to find it. The BLS offers a different unemployment measure that counts not only those currently looking for a job, but those who’ve given up looking, as well as those who are underemployed because of the soft job market.

That measure has unemployment at a whopping 15.2%.

But don’t look for this administration to ever tell you that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic Statistics for 2 Dec 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The big number today is the monthly employment situation. The BLS released the headline as "Unemployment rate falls to 8.6% in November; payroll employment rises by 120,000". The numbers behind the headline are less impressive. Actually, the headline isn’t all that impressive, considering that 120,000 new jobs is, at best, an anemic rate of job growth.  Also, it’s the time of year when a fair amount of hiring is seasonal, for temporary Christmas jobs, which can make the employment situation look better than it actually is, despite the seasonal adjustments to the data employed by BLS. Looking deeper, the labor force participation rate  continued to fall -0.2% to 64% as nearly half a million workers left the labor force.If the labor force participation rate was at the historical average of 66%, the unemployment rate would be 11.41%.  2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, about the same as last November.  The average workweek is unchanged at 34.3 hours, where it has been since September. Even worse, average earnings declined this month with the average hourly wage dropping 2 cents an hour to  $23.18. So, I think we can say that the drop in the unemployment rate is mainly due to people leaving the labor force, as the rate of job creation is weak.  Also, the lack of change in the workweek, and decline in wages implies that hiring pressure among firms is essentially non-existent as there has been no increase in the workweek for three months, and a glut of labor still exists as upward pressure on wages reversed this month. The only positive thing I can glean from this report comes from the household survey, where the number of respondents who are employed rose 278,000 to 140,580,000.

Monster.Com reports their employment index fell 4 points in November to 147 as online recruitment slowed.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Pelosi-math

I think I’ll check, but I’d guess that if you ever looked up the definition of the term “gas bag” you’d be likely find the picture of ex-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi next to it. She’s much more illustrative of the term than say some generic bag filled with hot gas.

Her latest:

“But I’ll tell you this,” said Pelosi, “if President Obama and the House congressional Democrats had not acted, we would be at 15 percent unemployment. Again, no consolation to those without a job, but an important point to make."

At her Oct. 6 briefing, Pelosi said: “Without the Recovery Act and accompanying federal interventions, whether from the Fed or ‘Cash for Clunkers’ or other initiatives, this unemployment rate last year at the time of the election would’ve been 14.5 percent, not 9.5 percent.”

Between her and Debbie Wasserman Shultz, you could compile a book length list of the groundless claims they’ve made.  And this is right up there in the top 10 for Pelosi.  Of course she doesn’t cite any basis for this claim but there it is nonetheless.

So what about her numbers?   Well, lets look at the numbers an agency which at least ran some came up with:

A report published by the Congressional Budget Office in August estimated that in the fourth quarter of 2011, the stimulus signed by President Obama in 2009 would have the impact of reducing the national unemployment rate between 0.3 points to 1.1 points from what it otherwise would have been. The report also said that although CBO initially estimated that the stimulus would cost $787 billion, CBO had subsequently increased its estimated cost to $825 billion.

It was on the basis of these numbers that Barack Obama made the claim that spending this money would keep the unemployment rate under 8%.  It went to 9.5% from about 4.8%.  In real math, that’s 4.7 points.  So essentially Pelosi is just adding the two (9.5 and 4.7 and adding a few tenths) to get her "14.5%” number.  There is obviously no backing for this claim.

Oh and cost per job? Well, pick your number but whichever you choose, these were expensive jobs:

According to the CBO report, 600,000 to 2 million people have jobs as of now that were "created or retained" because of the $825 billion stimulus. If the maximum number of 2 million is accepted, that works out to a cost of $412,500 per job. If the minimum number of 600,000 is accepted, that works out to a cost of $1,375,000 per job.

So any way you slice it, expensive.  But back to Pelosi.  Even if you accept the higher number of 2,000,000 and add that into the unemployed while subtracting it from the employed total and divide it out, you come up with roughly 10.5%. Even if you accept the projection’s top end estimate that 2,000,000 more jobs would have gone, you can’t get to her number from there.

Also note the “points” the CBO report claims might have been shaved by the so-called stimulus.  They are nowhere near the 4.7 Pelosi wants you to believe in.

Yeah, I know, typical political nonsense.  I just have to wonder, and the question and her answer are on video at the link, whether anyone in the press even challenged the numbers?  Since she’s used them twice recently, I’d guess not.  Also note her attempt to again blame Bush and the Republicans with her “300 days the Republicans were in power” and claim they did nothing to create jobs at that time.  And then look at the unemployment rate at that time (mentioned above).  Duh.  Again, I doubt that was challenged.

Typical of the “watchdog press” of today I’d say.  And very typical of Nancy Pelosi and the “lets make numbers and claims up out of thin air” crowd.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Fed loan program that gave us Solyndra has created few jobs (update)

One of the center pieces of the Obama administration’s recovery plan has been its green jobs program.  It was touted by the President as an investment in the future.  And he even managed to snooker Congress into including $38.6 of your dollars in a federal guaranteed loan program in the Stimulus bill – a version, in this case, of the government going into the venture capitalism business.

The results, as they say, are predictable:

A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show.

The program — designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans — has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.

Half the money is gone and it has created 3,545 “new, permanent jobs”?  You do the math – pretty high cost of job creating wouldn’t you say?  Oh, and that number is actually down by 1,100 thanks to Solyndra.

So are green jobs, of the type to be found in alternative energy, the best way to approach easing unemployment?  Not really, say some experts:

Obama’s efforts to create green jobs are lagging behind expectations at a time of persistently high unemployment. Many economists say that because alternative-­energy projects are so expensive and slow to ramp up, they are not the most efficient way to stimulate the economy.

“There are good reasons to create green jobs, but they have more to do with green than with jobs,” Princeton University economics professor and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder has said.

Which is a nice way of saying this is more about political agendas than putting Americans to work, and unemployment is an excuse, not  a reason, for pursuing this agenda.  And the cost of that agenda has been pretty prohibitive with no real worthwhile results in the ostensible problem it was supposed help solve – unemployment.  

Another example of government using your money to pick winners and losers and everyone coming out poorer in the bargain.

UPDATE: No, I didn’t see Dale’s post.  My bad.  I’ll leave mine, but now that Dale’s putting up a lot more stuff, I’m going to have to discipline myself to look first before I go popping something up (I use Live Writer, so unless I specifically look at the blog, I don’t see a list of what is up).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO