The BLS Jobs Report Covering February 2013: A Solid Seasonal Rebound

By Hugh, who is a long-time commenter at Naked Capitalism. Originally published at Corrente. A complete archive of Hugh’s reports can be found here.

The short form: Trendline, 236,000 jobs were added in February and the official unemployment rate fell to 7.7%. Actual jobs increased 959,000 but this followed a loss of 2.840 million last month. Similarly, employment rose 614,000 this month against a 1.446 million loss last month. However, notably the size of the labor force did not increase. The current rebuild and expansion of jobs should continue for the next two to three months. If this growth is choked off by the sequester or austerity, the consequences will extend through the rest of the year. My recalculated rate of unemployment remains high and declined only slightly to 12.5%. Hours increased this month which is good but wage gains taking inflation into account remain largely flat.

Looking first at revisions in the seasonally adjusted job numbers for the last two months:

January 157,000 > 119,000

December 155,000 > 196,000 > 219,000

meaning that December was somewhat better and January was worse than previously reported.

The potential civilian labor force as measured by the noninstitutional civilian population over 16 (NIP) increased 165,000 in February from 244.663 million to 244.828 million.

Multiplying the NIP by the employment-population ratio (58.6% unchanged from January) gives us an estimate of the number of jobs needed in February to keep up with population growth: 96,700.

Seasonally adjusted, the labor force decreased 130,000 from 155.654 million to 155.524 million. Unadjusted it decreased 67,000 from 154.794 million to 154.727 million. This bears watching because it could be the first signs of a boomer retirement effect.

Seasonally adjusted, the number of employed rose 170,000 from 143.322 million to 143.492 million.

Unadjusted, it rose 614,000 from 141.614 million to 142.228 million. As I pointed out last month, annual revisions make direct comparison with the December-January period difficult but the difference between the unadjusted employment numbers between December and January was -1.446 million, reflecting largely post-Christmas employment losses. So what we are seeing in the unadjusted February numbers is part of the expected early year rebound in employment, but importantly these employment gains came from almost entirely from shifts from unemployed to employed within the labor force and not an increase in the unadjusted labor force size. As noted above, the labor force actually shrank slightly. It may also be useful to note that last year the unadjusted increase in the employed January-February was 740,000.

The difference between the seasonally adjusted and unadjusted employment numbers again is the difference between a trendline (the adjusted numbers) which flattens peaks, and as here a major valley, and what actually happened in the economy in February (the unadjusted numbers). The trendline showed the flattening and largely offsetting of a 110,000 decrease last month and a 170,000 increase this month while, as I said, the unadjusted numbers showed a much larger drop with a while large, only partially offsetting increase this month.

Seasonally adjusted, unemployment decreased 300,000 from 12.332 million to 12.032 million. Unadjusted, it decreased 681,000 from 13.181 million to 12.500 million. As employment only rose 614,000, this means that net 67,000 people were defined out of or left the labor force in February.

As noted in the headline reporting, seasonally adjusted the official U-3 unemployment rate declined from 7.9% to 7.7%. Unadjusted, it decreased from 8.5% to 8.1%.

The broader U-6 measure of un- and under employment decreased seasonally adjusted 0.1% to 14.3%. Unadjusted, it declined 0.5% to 14.9%.

The adjusted U-6 was comprised of the 12.032 million U-3 unemployed, 2.588 million of the marginally attached (looked for work in the last year but not the last month), and 7.988 million involuntary part timers, or a total of 22.608 million, a decline of 140,000 from last month.

[Standard note] The BLS has a restrictive, though internationally recognized, definition of unemployment, that is without a job but have looked for one in the last 4 weeks. The marginally attached are not counted as part of the labor force and their use in the U-6 is an indication that this is what the BLS considers its functional undercount to be.

The BLS also has a more extended category: Not in Labor Force, Want a Job Now (seasonally unadjusted). In February, this increased 61,000 from 6.781 million to 6.842 million.

This category, however, does not reflect well actual movements in the economy. So I have developed a simple alternative to it. I calculate the size of where the labor force should be by multiplying the potential labor force of the NIP by a participation rate characteristic of a solid economic expansion (67%). The difference between this and the current labor force measures the size of the real BLS undercount, those who do not have jobs but would work if jobs were available to them. This then allows me to recalculate where real unemployment is and where real un- and under employment (disemployment) is.

.67(244.828 million) = 164.035 million (where the labor force should be)

Trend Undercount:
164.035 million — 155.524 million = 8.511 million
Current Undercount:
164.035 million — 154.727 million = 9.308 million

Real Trend Unemployment (that is seasonally adjusted):
12.032 million (U-3 unemployment) + 8.511 million (undercount) = 20.543 million
20.543 million / 164.035 million = 12.5% down0.1%

Real Unemployment Now (i.e. seasonally unadjusted) :
12.500 million (U-3 unemployment) + 9.308 million (undercount) = 21.808 million
21.808 million / 164.035 million = 13.3% down0.3%

Real Trend Disemployment:
Real Trend Unemployment + involuntary part time workers seasonally adjusted = 20.543 million + 7.988 million = 28.531 million
28.531 million / 164.035 = 17.4% unchanged

Real Disemployment Now:
Real Unemployment Now + involuntary part time workers seasonally unadjusted = 21.808 million + 8.298 million = 30.106 million
30.106 million / 164.035 = 18.4% down0.5%

In other words, actual (unadjusted) unemployment and disemployment decreased as expected while trendline (adjusted) they were little changed. All remained considerably higher than their U-3 and U-6 counterparts.

Long term unemployment, that is active job seekers out of work 6 months or more increased 90,000 to 4.797 million. The long term unemployed account for 39.9% of the U-3 unemployed.

Most of the improvement in the unemployment rate came from a decrease in white unemployment from 7.0% to 6.8%. African American unemployment was unchanged at 13.8%.

In the business survey, seasonally adjusted jobs increased by 236,000 to 135.046 million. This represented a gain of 246,000 in the private sector and a loss of 10,000 in government. Big gainers were professional and business services (73,000), construction (48,000), and healthcare and social assistance (39,100).

Unadjusted, businesses reported creating 959,000 jobs in February going from 132.644 million to 133.603 million. While this is a large increase, it is important to remember that the economy lost 2.840 million jobs last month.

Average weekly hours for all employees increased 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings for all employees increased 4 cents to $23.82. Average weekly earnings increased $3.76 to $821.79 or 1.8% since February 2012.

Average weekly hours for production and nonsupervisory personnel (blue collar) increased 0.2 hours to 33.8 hours. Average hourly earnings increased 5 cents to $20.04. Average weekly earnings increased $5.69 to $677.35 or 2% since February 2012

Household data (Employment/unemployment)
Statistical significance: +/ – 400,000
The A tables:
A 1 for most information and categories
A 2 Unemployment by race
A 8 Part time workers
A 12 Duration of unemployment
A 15 U 6 un- and under employment
A 16 Persons not in labor force

Establishment date (jobs)
Statistical significance: +/ – 100,000
The B tables:
B 1 Total jobs and jobs by industry/type
B 2 Weekly hours, all employees
B 3 Hourly and weekly earnings, all employees
B 6 Weekly hours, blue collar
B 7 Hourly and weekly earnings, blue collar

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Cujo359

      I keep referring to the employment numbers for the last two years or so as “treading water”. We’re just keeping up with population growth, and have not done much of anything to close the gap created by the crash of 2008.

      As Richard Kline notes below, the electorate seems to be just fine with this. At least, they don’t demand their politicians do something, or they’ll find new politicians. Until that changes, particularly among progressives, nothing else about this situation will. At least, it won’t change for the better.

  1. Richard Kline

    This stuff must course through your veins, bro! But seriously Hugh, it’s nice to have a detailed lay-out from someone who can crunch the numbers without having an intercranial aneurism.

    Real unemployment at 12.5% is my takeaway . . . the new normal. Politically, the electorate is taking that number lying down, so they’ll see it for the foreseable future, methinks. This crisis has been a GREAT deal for the Oligarchy, they’ve never had it better. Labor discipline; Fed absolutely pinging up money for the .1%, no questions asked, here have another 10-figure increment; political ‘crises’ to give the two-headed uniparty talking points without substantive actions; government employees being stricken from the rolls, with the necessary services ear-clipped to be ‘privatized’ in due course; firewall containing national entitlement funding burned to the melting point in places. This crisis has been the best thing that’s ever HAPPENED for the Oligarchy . . . .

    1. PaulArt

      Yes the train we are on starting chugging to the late 19th Century quite a while back and there is little that can be done until unemployment gets to 40-50%. Even at that point one wonders if the populace will wake up because there will always be food stamps and no huge lines at soup kitchens so the problem will still be underground. It would be amusing at that time I guess – one wonders if people will start immigrating to China in search of jobs. They seem to be the only country that is very alive to the shenanigans of the Neoliberals.

      1. Sarastro92

        “there will always be food stamps and no huge lines at soup kitchens so the problem will still be underground.”

        I’m afraid that Sequestration is the beginning of the end for the social safety net … no, this time the oligarchy is out for blood…

        It’s no accident that military drone executions, Dept Homeland Security, NDAA, Operation Stellar Wind etc. have been “legitimized” and now pretty much operational.

    1. LucyLulu

      Another entitlement that can be thrown into the grand bargain.

      Food stamps, it’s the fourth rail.

  2. craazyman

    That’s one heck of a lot of data digging Hugh. There’s no way I can offer an intelligent perspective on any of this since my eyes glaze over and I’m lost by the 2nd paragraph, but the folks who can do this sort of thing have my respect and appreication.

    Puzzled though about what another Data Geek says. Mish Shedlock says all the growth came from part-time jobs and full-time jobs actually fell by 276,000. That doesn’t seem like a rebound, if it’s true.

    It’s weird. Everything in economics seems to be like a football game where different people can look at the same game and come up with different scores. One fan says the score is tied at 7-7 and another fan says the score is 56-0. Not only that, but fans disagree on who won — even when the game is over!

    That’s amazing. It’s the only field of thought where people can disagree not only on what will happen, but what’s happening now and even what happened already. How can that be? I don’t know but it gives me a headache and stomach nausea from exhaustion trying to understand.

    1. jake chase

      Yogi Berra once said ‘you can observe a lot just by watching’. On Saturday, around noon, I walked into a Walgreen’s drug store in Eastern North Carolina, hoping to purchase a compression stocking.

      The store is moderately large, perhaps 10,000 square feet. It was staffed by one woman at the cash register, and, although I did not meet her until later, another woman, charged with providing ‘customer service’ to those lost among its 25 isles of prepackaged dreck, worthless nostrums, greeting cards, toys, school supplies and God knows what else. There was a photo kiosk staffed by a clerk, and a pharmacy kiosk, staffed by somebody in a white smock, who may or may not have been a pharmacist. There were five or six customers prowling the isles, apparently as lost as I was, but they did not seem particularly concerned by this waste of time on a lovely winter day. Perhaps they found the appalling musak entertaining?

      I wasted five or ten minutes searching in the isle to which the checkout lady had directed me. I couldn’t find the item I was after, but I did notice a variety of trinkets and garments which I dearly hope I will not live long enough to need. I returned to the front of the store and told the checkout lady I was sorry it was Saturday, because if the stock market were open I would be running home to short the stock. She laughed. The help lady suddenly materialized. She immediately conducted me to the isle I had just vacated, poked and prodded among the racks, and found the item I needed, which was directly adjacent to another which I had remembered noticing, although it did not serve my purpose. I was not surprised to find that the thing was there the whole time. I am old and my eyes are not what they used to be. But what young person needs the things carried in a drug store?

      The help lady finally admitted that they did not have the extra large size I needed. She proposed that I buy the smaller size, because I could always bring it back, weeks, months or years later, if it did not suit. ‘We let you return anything,’ she said. I told her I had tried that before and had the scars to prove it.

      I told her I remembered when drug stores and hardware stores too actually carried things people needed, and were staffed by people who knew the merchandise and could help you find something helpful if you came in with nothing but a vague complaint or a project. She laughed. ‘That must have been nice,’ she said.

      I asked her how two people could possibly handle the traffic in a store this size? ‘It isn’t easy,’ she said. ‘We’re a little short handed.’ I will give her credit for being consistently cheerful, quite intelligent, determined to be truly helpful, and at the same time quite aware that her cause was hopeless. I asked how long she had been working in the store. ‘Not long,’ she said. I seriously doubt the company was overpaying her, although in so far as I could see, she was the only asset the store had.

      When I got home I looked up the company’s stock (symbol WAG). It operates 8,030 drug stores in the US, of which I suspect the one I had just experienced was depressingly typical. It’s only other business consists of 700 ‘worksite health and wellness centers’, about which I have no information. To me they sound like a corporate pipe dream with no chance of breaking even.

      During the past 12 months, the company took in revenue of $71 billion and made a profit of $2 billion. If we assume the drug stores account for 80% of the revenue, that would be roughly $7 million dollars per store, $19,400 per day. If the average customer spends $15 (and that is a stretch, when you factor in the substantial number of customers who buy nothing, because what they are looking for isn’t there), these two employees are servicing 1,291 customers per day. How is this even possible?

      The five top executives of this commercial wasteland took home $9.39 million over its most recent fiscal year, of which the Top Dog got $3.1 million. The stock has mushroomed from $4 in 1990, to $7 in 1995, $50 in 2006. It collapsed to $25 during the crash of 2008, and has now recovered to $40.64 as of last Friday. Motley Fool seems to think it can keep on going up, although I didn’t read the analysis so I have no idea why.

      When people suggest that the economy is turning up and that our futures are secure under the stewardship of Corporate America, I wonder what they can be smoking and where I can get some?

      1. d cortex

        Walgreens owns Duane Reade as well with over 250 locations. Are you suggesting a important part of the stores income is not made selling goods, but on the stock market?

        1. jake chase

          No. I am suggesting that the company’s financial success seems derived from selling overpriced, largely worthless and useless drek and providing as little customer service possible, while sweating its store labor as much as possible.

          My only real question is who shops in these stores and why?

  3. kevinearick

    numbers in front of a runaway train…

    Children: Inferential Demand

    Do you tell your brain what to do, or does your brain tell you what to do?

    You can submit to your spouse, or you can submit to the majority, everyone around you. To be an effective parent, you must be able to identify future values and make current decisions accordingly, against the currency of artificial empire supply and demand, as an example of faith over time to your children. Labor’s positive feedback loop with community serves as a negative feedback loop to the empire positive feedback loop.

    The empire can only chase you with numbers, offering relatively innumerable bridges to nowhere, to disguise your path. The one and only path forward, to protect your investments, is to build your foundation upon the basis of that which make you unique, that which the empire, and its participants, cannot see, for it has no perception, except replication, unless you give it one, Skynet or no. The Microsoft cloud is just its latest extension, and Stuxnet was classic empire stupidity, what goes around comes around.

    The tide on the fulcrum is a function of time, relativity, which is an artificial construct in your brain, granting you free will to explore the perceptions of others or to create your own. The fulcrum and pendulum are one and the same, from different perspectives, the alpha and omega. The resulting multiplexer bypasses origin, dividing perception by zero over time, resulting in the calculus of demographics.

    Wealth is a function of net present value of future cash flows, itself a social construct, a perception realized over time, with all kinds of opportunities for the empire to dissuade you from realizing your value. Take a second/cycle and think about it. If you are going to have 100 great grandchildren that love you, you are incredibly wealthy before your first child is born. Wealth is a function of timeless values, regardless of what anyone in the majority, all of whom are quickly returning their genes to the DNA churn pool, has to say.

    The majority solves the same problem, the empire, everyday (a cheap mirror of the universe), the inception of artificial crisis for the sake of extortion, over and over and over again, repeating its perception of history over a time period of whatever peer pressure event horizon its participants choose. Yes, you can short Warren Buffet, but, as you have repeatedly seen, the Fed will replenish him every time, to keep the demographic insurance monopoly ponzi going; he’s a dinosaur. If you get in the way of a dinosaur, it has something to eat and replicates. Get out of the way and the empire implodes – reversion, backwardization, retardation, whatever word suits your purpose.

    You can know gravity, and therefore its magnetic counterpart by inference. You also know that planetary diversity increases over time if viewed on a positive number line, either at the microscopic or macroscopic level relative to your viewpoint. Diversity among large species is declining rapidly, which tells you that microscopic diversity is increasing rapidly, and weather variability tells you that quantum threshold is on the empire horizon.

    You also know that the land must be harvested productively, but the empire employs artificial property control as a means of extortion, to supply free money from the top/legacy down, creating future slave debt demand from the bottom up, 700% payday loans. Psychologically, the empire cannot tolerate leakage, but it must have your product, inferential demand of independent-thinking children, real oxygen, creating prisoners dilemma for the majority, which has chosen of free will and expects you to do the same, backed by the artificial force of artificial numbers.

    When you walk out of privacy, you enter class warfare, complete with artificial choices and artificial outcomes. Hyperinflation / deflation is an act of war. Of course those believing in free money are surprised; they are paid to be surprised, with other people’s interest payments. It works both ways.

    Neither a borrower nor a lender be. It’s less expensive to give the money away intelligently. Labor has no interest in any national currency or gold, all of which are controlled by central bank artifices. Labor doesn’t need to issue currency, and it can value any currency any way it wants at any time it wants. Get out of the way and let the empire misdirect itself, until you don’t.

    When you net it out, those “intellectual” wardens occupying the ivory prison spire can’t do anything, and there is only a “reality” on the other side of their switch to the extent you provide one. Timing is everything. Let them play last man standing. Why would you play a game that can only be lost, over time, when you can play a game that may be won any way you want, any time you want?

  4. econ

    Hugh does exemplary work on the unemployment series. In Canada we do not use the term “unemployment” as our Orwellian conservative federal govt use the term “employment” for our unemployment payments to citizens. Harold Innes a Canadian economist in the 1950s said that the unemployment payments to citizens out of work was a bribe to keep unemployed from formenting a revolution. Hugh’s 12.5% level is not quite there in USA I surmise for revolt.

  5. Hugh

    craazyman, there are a number of issues here. First, the quality of jobs has been declining for some time. We know this, but it is difficult to assess. The BLS does not track this. For it, a job is a job is a job. A full time CEO position making millions and the barest part time job are given equal weight. We can only assess it indirectly by looking at which sectors are adding jobs, changes in overall hours and earnings, the undercount which I calculate, and other sources such as the reports that break out average household income by quintiles.

    Second, we need to distinguish between the two BLS surveys, the Establishment or business survey (jobs) and Household or people survey (employment). These two surveys do not cover exactly the same populations. Most notably the business survey does not cover agricultural jobs or the self-employed. And the margins of error are very different. 100,000 for the larger business survey and 400,000 for the household survey. Therefore the two are only roughly comparable. The central point being that jobs do not equal people, or at least not exactly. This is a criticism I have made in the past that while the two are not equal, they should nevertheless be more congruent than they often are.

    Third, with that in mind, the business survey doesn’t measure part time work. If we are looking at job quality, one particular job category we often look at is temp jobs. These were little changed in February. Adjusted they increased 16,000 to 2.5822 million. Unadjusted, they increased 29,100 to 2.4579 million.

    Part time work is measured in a couple of places in the Household survey (the A-8 and A-9 tables). In the A-8, part time work, currently set at 1 to 34 hours/week, is split between voluntary and involuntary part time workers. Involuntary part time workers refers to those who could only find part time but wanted full time work or who were working part time due to slack work or business conditions. Voluntary part time workers refers to those who “usually work part time for noneconomic reasons such as childcare problems, family or personal obligations, school or training, retirement or Social Security limits on earnings, and other reasons.”

    If we look at involuntary part time workers, these increased seasonally adjusted by 15,000 to 7.988 million in February. Unadjusted, they increased 70,000 to 8.298 million.

    The real story is in the voluntary part time workers. Adjusted, these increased 444,000 (not the 446,000 Mish mentions) to 18.908 million. But again adjusted means trend, not actual. The actual is the unadjusted, and these increased a whopping 904,000 to 19.500 million. The unadjusted February number for voluntary part time workers has been fairly volatile, but this is its largest increase. In 2010, it decreased by 64,000. In 2011, it increased by 621,000, and in 2012 it decreased by 600,000.

    The question here is is this a fluke: a creature of the sampling method, natural volatility, or part of an expected shift due to boomers retiring? Or is it a sign of a worsening economy? The answer is that at this point we don’t know and what is going on will only become clearer in the next few months.

    Finally, if we look at the A-9, it records seasonally adjuste, that is trendline, a loss of 77,000 in full time workers, dropping to 115.841 million. The unadjusted (actual) number, however, shows an increase of 123,000.

    There are some summing questions between the A-8 and the A-9, but that is a discussion for another time.

    I generally don’t follow multiple job holders, and perhaps I should. And I don’t follow Pew that much either. The BLS data indicates an increase of 340,000 seasonally adjusted in this category which is unusual. Unadjusted, they increased 697,000 which is also unusual. These subcategories tend to show more volatility but here too the coming months should show whether this is a fluke or real.

    Hope this helps and sorry for the tardiness in replying.

  6. Hugh

    BTW I should I suppose explain Mish’s math. Apparently, he is taking the increase in part timers for non-economic reasons and subtracting from it the increase in the number of employed.

    446,000 – 170,000 = 276,000

    [As I noted above, the number is 444,000.]

    However, this leaves out the 15,000 increase in involuntary part time workers. So I would think the equation should look like this:

    444,000 + 15,000 – 170,000 = 289,000.

    All of these are trendline, not actual, numbers. If we look at the unadjusted, actual workers. It would look like this:

    904,000 + 70,000 – 614,000 = 360,000. That is the number of part time workers who replaced full time workers. If this were an effect of Obamacare we would expect the number of involuntary part timers to increase. That almost all of the increase comes from voluntary part time workers raises the possibility of a boomer effect, that is if this isn’t a fluke or volatility.

  7. Ms G

    Given all of the specific types of employment or dis-employment that the BLS appears *not* to count or consider or break out, is it possible that BLS’s reports are simply rather irrelevant as descriptors of the conditions of our job market(s) and reality/trends in employment and unemployment?

    How hard would it be for BLS to start focusing on real “patterns,” like the number of people in barely-minimum-wage service jobs/part time jobs/jobs with no benefits, etc.

    Is there any government agency that takes whatever BLS reports and whatever reports are issued regarding real inflation (cost of living increases for regular people) to draw conclusions as to the “disconnect” between people’s jobs and earnings versus what it takes to live with a bare amount of dignity (e.g., housed, fed, with healthcare, with utilities).

  8. Hugh

    Ms G, the numbers, categories, and methodologies take on a life of their own. People lose sight of what they actually measure and if what is measured is what we need to know. Add in underfunding and we no longer are really sure that what is being measured, relevant or not, is being measured that well. The truth is they aren’t very relevant or precise, but they are all we have. The questions remain important, so we glean from them what we can.

    1. Ms G

      Thank you Hugh. Not just for your response but for working so meticulously with what we have, for all of our very great benefit.

  9. Chris Engel

    “solid seasonable rebound”?

    I guess that’s the administration’s spin on this report.

    IN reality this is a painfully inadequate increase.

    As Dean Baker of the CEPR notes in his Beat the Press blog, at this rate we’ll close the jobs gap by…2020. ( )

    But to your credit the trend calculation you put together of unemployment/disemployment shows the underlying situation of an unbroken trend of lackluster job creation.

    On that note, it would be interesting to see a chart just to help visualize the past few years’ trend under your alternative calculation of unemployment.

    U-3 is woefully inadequate at describing the real situation on the ground, so alternative measures are always appreciated to help shed light on a heavily propagandized figure.

  10. Ms G

    I must say, though, that the “solid seasonable rebound” phrase — given what we know about the limitations of the BLS numbers — is rather a kick in the teeth (immensely offensive) to the tens of millions — or, as Hugh has figured out, more than 15% — unemployed, underemployed, disemployed.

    Referring to a “solid” “rebound” really makes it clear that “up there” in the high reaches of government — where these numbers presumably are supposed to inform policy (unclear on whose behalf) — none of us matter — we don’t even make it into the numbers.

      1. Chris Engel

        you were closer with the 15 figure than 12.5 :)

        there’s an epidemic of college kids (graduated and not graduated) who live with their parents and don’t even respond to household surveys, usually because they’re relying on the perceived wealth of their parents and there’s the Japanese-style element of shame that leaves them out of the process.

        there’s unemployed, underemployed, employed outside of field, employed beneath education potential, etc.

        but I agree 100%, the “solid rebound” statement really threw off the tone of the whole piece, making it harder to see the better points within the article that show this isn’t in fact a solid rebound in any sense of the term.

        1. Ms G

          If I had to pull a percentage number out of the hat of my immediate and not so immediate experience, it would probably be a lot higher than 15% :)

          But Hugh’s number has scrupulous and intelligent analysis behind it so I will stick with that one!

          To me, the mass unemployment or employment in minimum wage, part-time, benefit-less mcjobs amongst college graduates of the past 5 years is a domestic massacre. And I feel the same way about the same predicament that is affecting pretty much all demographic groups who are part of the putative “labor force.” It is a carnage, and no less one because it does not involve mass shootings of civilians or trains headed for fake gas showers.

        2. Ms G

          The point about “shame” is hugely important. And again, not only as to the young just-out-of-college people. Another social pathology (the feeling of shame because one does not have a job in the worst job market in this country’s history — save a few years during the other Depresssion) that flows directly from the pernicious Horatio Alger myth and its related self-centered morality (“self made,” “blame yourself,” “self reliance,” etc.)

        3. Hugh

          Rebound does not refer to any government policy. Rather it has to do with a yearly seasonal process. The unadjusted numbers of the employed crash each January. They then rebound in the late winter and spring. This happens every year. The February numbers are consistent with this established pattern. This has nothing to do with any general improvements in the employment situation. It merely means that things for the moment are not getting worse and are following an established pattern.

          I wrote a post on a different subject here last September. In it, I have a graph of U3 unemployment vs. my calculated level of real unemployment:

          It is the 4th graph. Basically, real unemployment (seasonally adjusted) plateaued in September 2009 and has only declined slightly since.

          1. Ms G

            Thanks for explaining the context for the phrase “rebound” and for the link. Unfortunately I don’t think that I am in a minority in being unaware of the “bureaucratic” origin of the word.

            And for persons who are similarly unaware,the phrase “solid rebound” has a ring of pollyana-ish cheer about it, particularly given the circumstances of the tens of millions of Americans who may feel as though they are being told about a movie in which they do not even have a role as an extra. I guess I am trying to say that on its face, the phrase does not telegraph itself as referring to a very narrow set of parameters that have, potentially, very little relationship to the true “jobs” picture.

          2. Chris Engel

            I like the graph.

            I suggest you keep updating it and posting it with any articles on the topic :)

            Another suggestion: With any articles on semi-technical topics like this, it’s always good to have _at least_ one graph that helps visualize the issue you’re writing about, instead of an article that’s just a wall of text.

          3. Hugh

            I post these reports originally at Corrente, but because of a glitch probably in my browser I can’t post graphs to it from my slow connection. I am going to try to change browsers and see if that helps.

          4. avg John

            Hugh, you might want to experiment with different graphing software to see if you can get a smaller sized file.

  11. Hugh

    I should add that there were some 8.6 million who became unemployed from the employment high point (November 2007) to the low point (December 2009). It would take a little over 7 years to fill this employment gap if 100,000 were created each month over population growth. And while the November 2007 number is the employment high point in the current cycle, it does not take into account an employment gap generated by the poor job creation throughout the Bush years. I haven’t looked recently (that since last May when I wrote a post on it) at how much of a dent Obama has made in the gap from November 2007, but then I figured at the rate he was going it would take more than 40 years (which in human terms means never).

  12. gozounlimited

    Noticed with discussion on immigration, moral and employment has improved in California. We are ready to take off….and take you with us. In Cali, The Sequester mostly affects the poor, disabled, disenfranchised…. the groups that seem to always lose out to the power of elite war mongers and political hacks.

    Recovery should really take off when we get our priorities straight and take care of the problems that have lingered on and on for too long. We aren’t going to give up……

  13. S Brennan

    A couple of interesting charts on unemployment, clearly labor participation rate dropping is a significant portion of the “good news”…

    …but also notice that the divergence occurs in the spring of 2009. Why? What’s the difference between one Administration to the next? The source is not somebody given to covering for the Bush administration. Given the experience of those living around me, some now disappeared, the “official” numbers have an Orwellian “look & feel”.

    1. Hugh

      To blow my own horn a little, I think I was the one who came up with the idea behind those charts. I was struck by the fact that the U3 and U6 were not taking into account large numbers of workers which the BLS was arbitrarily defining out of the labor force and thereby reducing the scope of our employment crisis. So I looked back to the Clinton years and found that for something like 40 months the participation rate had been at or above 67%. That seemed like a reasonable benchmark to me. The BLS uses an active job seeker model. If a worker has not looked for work in the 4 weeks before the BLS survey, he/she is defined out of the labor force. My approach looked at how many people would work if jobs were available to them. To recapitulate, the BLS measures how many people are looking for work whether or not there are any jobs for them. I was measuring, if the jobs were there, how many people would take them.

      The sharp rises you see in both approaches around the beginning of 2009 are the result of the September 2008 meltdown. It really had nothing to do with who was President at the time. And given that Obama and Bush’s policies on the economy, as in so many other areas, were similar or the same, potentially differing policy was not a factor.

  14. Sarastro92 puts the real unemplopyment/ underemployment (involuntary part time employment) at north of 23%

    The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994.

    That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

    1. Hugh

      All of this revolves around the size of the undercount. That is the BLS uses a restrictive definition, though internationally recognized, of unemployment based on active jobseeking. Those who fall under this definition are counted as part of the labor force. The labor force is the sum of the employed and these unemployed. Any others even if they want to work are defined as not unemployed but out of the labor force. We know our jobs crisis is much bigger than the official 7.7% unemployment rate. For a long time, it was held an unemployment rate below 5% wasn’t sustainable. That’s debatable, but that would leave an employment gap of 2.7% or about 4 million. That simply doesn’t correspond to the crisis we see all around us. So the question becomes how big is the undercount, and if you use my approach, it comes down to what size participation rate you want to use. I chose 67% because this was what it was during a long and solid expansion and the participation rate was at or above this level for 44 of 45 months from October 1996 to June 2000. Significantly, this is after the Shadowstats 1994 revision. We could argue over whether the participation rate couldn’t be pushed even higher but overall most of the people who wanted jobs during that period had access to a job. Yet the participation went a little but not a lot above 67%. Shadowstats needs to make a better case for its higher number because we are talking ultimately the undercount and participation rate and just saying well unemployment used to be calculated this other way doesn’t really cut it. And too there could be some double counting. The U6 component of the marginally attached to the labor force is a subset of the undercount, that is people without jobs but not counted as in the labor force. If Shadowstats just adds a value for the undercount into the U6 without taking into account the marginally attached this group will be counted twice, once as part of the standard U6, once as part of the undercount.

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