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Friday, May 6, 2011

Monthly Unemployment Report for April 2011

Official Unemployment Rate is up by .2%.. but wait!


We have 800,000 fewer people reporting themselves as officially unemployed (out of work and actively looking).  And the unadjusted rate has dropped .5%, from 9.2% to 8.7%.  (A year ago it was 9.7%.) We have 700,000 more people reporting themselves as employed in unadjusted (real) numbers.


Seasonally adjusted jobs as reported from employers did go up 240,000.  That's a decent increase.  (Unadjusted (real) job growth was 1,100,000.)   268,000 of the increase (in adjusted numbers) was in the private sector; local and state government jobs numbers are starting to decline.


600,000 to 1,000,000 people had jobs in April that didn't have jobs in March.


What's the Bottom Line in April employment?




Bottom line:  At least 600,000 to 1,000,000 people had jobs in April that didn't have jobs in March.  But two thirds of this can be accounted for by seasonal variations; in other words, it is fairly normal for many more people to have jobs in April than in March, and it doesn't make as much difference as one might think.  In absolute terms, we have about 300,000 more people with jobs this April than last April.  Not a big increase year over year, but there was quite a bit of hiring for the Census last year at this time..


Labor market appears stagnant.


There is a lot of conflicting data in this month's unemployment report.  Some of the unadjusted numbers look good, even when compared to last year, but most of the adjusted numbers don't look that great.  My sense is that the labor market, despite seasonal fluctuations, remains fairly stagnant, though with more positive indicators than negative.  But basically pretty darned stagnant.


The Alternate Unemployment Rate for April: 18.1%


Update:The U6 number did go up in adjusted numbers, but it went down in unadjusted numbers from 16.2% to 15.5%.   


What is the "Civilian Labor Force"?


Many times unemployment rates can go up even when the total number of unemployed goes down and vice verse.  This depends on the number of people who are in the Civilian Labor Force; that is, those who are either employed or actively looking for work.  In adjusted terms, the size of the Civilian Labor Force has gone up, the third month in a row, but more of those people were unemployed.  In unadjusted "real" numbers, however, the size of the Civilian Labor Force actually went down a bit, with an increase in the number of people employed, and a decrease in the number of people unemployed.  


Other Comments:
  • There are 300,000 to 400,000 more people working this year than a year ago, and that's not a big improvement considering the population continues to grow.  But that number might be better than it looks as last April was a peak month for Census hiring. 
  •  We have 3,000,000 more people NOT in the labor force this year than last year.  That number is about the same in both adjusted and unadjusted numbers.  But last year, about 7% of those people not in the labor force "wanted a job" but haven't actively looked in the last month ; this year, 7.5% of those people "want a job" but haven't actively looked in the last month.  So the number of people who are discouraged in finding work continues to rise. 
  •  The employment "Participation Rate" (the number of people either working or active unemployed compared to the number of people in the total over 16 civilian non-institutional population) and the employment/population ratio (the number of people working as compared to the number of people in the total over 16 civilian non-institutional population) continue to be stagnant.  The participation rate has been hanging around at 64.% to 64.2% for months now, and the Employment/population ratio has been between 58.1% and 58.5% for months now.      


Biggest employers hiring:  Food Service and Retail "General Merchandising"


 Occupationally, the biggest jumps were in Food Service, Retail Trade, in particular "General Merchandising", Health Care, in particular, "Ambulatory Health Care Services", Business and Professional Services, especially "Management and Technical Consulting", also Administrative and Waste Services.  The Business and Professional services growth is probably a good thing, the growth in jobs in Food Service and "General Merchandising"  (read "Walmart") is probably not that good for the economy as a whole.


As expected, employment at all government levels is heading downwards, especially when compared to employment levels in these institutions a year ago.  I guess the laid-off teachers and other government workers, many of whom were unionized, can find jobs at Walmart or McDonald's.    


The Plight of the Long-Term Unemployed is not Improving


In unadjusted numbers, the median duration of unemployment continues to increase, from 22.7 weeks in March to 24.3 in April; but in seasonally adjusted numbers, that median has gone down from 21.7 to 20.7.  46.1% of the unemployed have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more, up from 44.5% last month.  But in adjusted numbers, things are looking up a bit.  Only 43.4% of the unemployed have been out of work more than 27 weeks in unadjusted numbers, and that is two percentage points better than last month.


Older workers?


In absolute unadjusted numbers, there are 300,000 more people 55+ working this month vs. last month.  There are 100,000 more are working who are 65+, thus about 200,000 who are 55-64.  We don't know what kind of jobs those people have; if they are full-time, part-time, minimum wage, decent jobs, etc.


More about this later...


Is this a trend?  Only time will tell.  


The number of people working part-time for economic reasons (the underemployed who want a full-time job) has gone up in seasonally adjusted numbers, down in "real" unadjusted numbers.


The unemployment rate among blacks continues to go up, in both adjusted and unadjusted numbers.  Among other ethnic groups, the adjusted numbers have gone up a bit, while the unadjusted numbers have dropped a bit.

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