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August 06, 2010

When "Recovery" Looks Like Same-o Same-o

The BLS released the unemployment rate for July today: it appears we got stuck with 9.5% for another month. What does 9.5% look like? Well, a little something like this:


In related "The Chart" news, lauraw recommends this Twitter (H/T to Andy at The Hostages).

The BLS report spins the situation as best it can, focusing on the 71,000 jobs created by the private sector and the 143,000 lost due to the census, but there are plenty 'o other exciting items of note:

  • Non-farm jobs lost: 258,000 [normally the BLS ignores the ag sector and only talks about non-farm employment in the first paragraph. This month, though, the ag sector added ~100K jobs, so the BLS decided to talk about total employment instead. Spin much?]
  • The civilian labor force lost another 181,000 workers in July. That brings the participation rate down to 64.6% - worse than even a year ago (before the awesome healing powers of The Stimulus really took hold) when it was 65.4%. [Ed Morrissey sometimes plots the participation rate, but it looks like he's being lazy this morning.]
  • The number of full-time workers dropped by 507,000!! We now have 2 million fewer full-time workers than we had a year ago.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, in honor of my debut post here at AoSHQ I give you . . . More Charts!!

The health of employment can often be ascertained from filings of Initial Unemployment Claims, but there hasn't been any good news on that front since last October:

From March through October of 2009, the initial unemployment filings were dropping at a rate of 560/day. Since November they've been dropping at 66/day. Fortunately the stimulus is working as planned, so there's that.

Ace showed an older version of this chart a while back, but if you ask yourself why the data in the previous chart flattens out in November, one particular event comes to mind:


I don't think "The Chart" is very helpful in understanding the employment situation, since so many people have dropped completely out of the labor force. I use total employment as a simple indicator of where we're really at. Remember that we usually need to add 100-150K jobs per month to handle growth in the labor market:


A "Recovery Summer" indeed.

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posted by Geoff at 10:10 AM

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