This morning’s jobs statistics are almost worthless.
The reason is that it came from surveys around the middle of March, when the crisis was only starting to show in employment, and the overwhelming majority jobless now were still working. Still, it gives us a taste of what we’re going to see.
We lost 701,000 net nonfarm positions, at the bottom of an 800,000-job-wide range reflecting uncertainty about how many people had lost them at survey time. Adjusted unemployment rose 0.9% to 4.4%, with unadjusted up 0.7% to 4.5%. The unemployed count rose 1.3 million to 7.1 million, with the number of those out for 27 weeks or longer – not affected yet by the virus – up 100,000 to match January’s 1.2 million. Average private nonfarm payroll wages for those still working gained 10 cents per hour, above inflation, to $28.62. The data showed 1.5 million more working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting but not having full-time propositions, and is now 5.8 million.
The most dramatic changes, historically speaking, were in the two measures of how common it is for Americans to be working or officially jobless. The labor force participation rate fell 0.7%, and is now at a 42-year bottom, equaling December 1977’s 62.7%. The employment-population ratio, off 1.1% to 60.0%, is at its lowest since February 2017’s 59.9%.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the Royal Flush Press product showing in one figure how many new positions could be quickly filled if they were understood to be easy to get, jumped 1.4 million as follows:
That only just over one million of this increase came from official unemployment showed that other statuses have gained people as well. The count of those wanting work but not looking for it for a year or more added about 400,000. Those claiming no interest in working were up almost 1.6 million. However, others did not – for example, the number of people in the armed forces, institutions, and with unknown statuses lost a little, implying that, at least as of the middle of last month, there had been no rush to go off the grid.
Compared with a year before, the AJSN has given up its almost monthly improvement and is now up 1.2 million. Two thirds of that is from higher official unemployment, with most of the rest from a larger count of those wanting work but not searching for it for the past year.
We’ll see what happens when the new employment data comes out May 8th. We could easily be down tens of millions of jobs, with unemployment way into double figures. The turtle took a large step backwards this time, but may need to be lifted and carried next.