Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Working age men still can't find work

Back in July 2005 I did one of my more popular postings, "Yes, the job market really is weak". It had currency mostly due to my nifty graph showing the percentage of employed individuals in an American demographic group almost universally in need of work which doesn't wax and wane with educational or retirement opportunities, nor with social trends toward greater workforce participation rates. That group was men, age 25-64.

Back in July, a little number crunching showed that the US jobs picture was pretty piss poor. In light of the general excitement about the January 2006 jobs numbers together with the upward revisions to those of late 2005, I thought I'd return to the graph and update it for the last two quarters of 2005. The overall story? More of the same.

The four-quarter moving average in 2005:IV shows the US economy has only just recovered to where it was in 2002:IV: 83.1% of what I'll call "working age men" are employed. That's up a microscopic 0.3% from where we were when I penned the first post with this data in July. And we are still far far below the plateaus of the previous two job booms in the late 90s and the late 80s -- forget about the jobs boom of the late 70s. Even worse, 8 quarters since the most recent trough and we're only up to the nadir of 1992!

Let's come clean. This economy continues with a massive disconnect between the largesse of capital and the scraps thrown to labor. And in case you hadn't noticed, it's too late to get in to the whole real estate agent thing now.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Enjoying your seasonally-adjusted job?

The media is all in a lather this morning over the January US jobs numbers.
Employers stepped up hiring in January, boosting payrolls by 193,000 and lowering the nation's unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, the lowest since July 2001.

The fresh snapshot of the jobs climate, released by the Labor Department on Friday, suggested that the economy started the new year on fairly good footing.

Although the 193,000 gain in payroll jobs in January fell short of the 250,000 new jobs that economists said to anticipate before the release of the report, it still marked a sturdy showing and was the biggest increase in jobs since November.

"There's no question we're getting back to better days for job creation," said Ken Mayland, economist at ClearView Economics. "There's been a sense of unease in the American workplace and this should help relieve that. The economy is getting on off to excellent start in 2006."
Well, gee whiz, Ken, it's all comin' up roses!

Of course, we should all remember that the US economy did not produce 193,000 actual jobs in January 2006. It produced 193,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs. The kind no one actually works. In the real world, the US economy eliminated 2.625 million jobs, the seasonally unadjusted kind that actually generate paychecks.

Of course, January is always the bleakest month for jobs, with all the Christmas help being sloughed off. On a cheery note, this was the best January for jobs since 1998, although only marginally better than the last three Januaries (+82,000 jobs over 2005; +36,000 over 2004; +60,000 over 2003). Since Katrina the country is -1.175 million actual jobs (August 2005-January 2006 total nonfarm payrolls), a little worse than the same period in 2004-05.

Total real wages and salaries (deflated by the more moderate PCE index rather than the CPI) have been stagnant for a year as have real average hourly earnings of production workers (again using the more moderate PCE index). At best we can say that the US economy is treading water as far as jobs go.