Today, instead of on the usual first Friday, February’s Bureau of Labor Statistics job data arrived. Most headlines will say that unemployment, seasonally adjusted of course, dropped to 7.7%, and 236,000 net new nonfarm jobs, more than enough for the population increase, were created.
Nothing misleading there - it was a good month. The American Job Shortage Number improved also, by over 600,000, as follows:The effect of the growth in jobs, actually an unadjusted gain of 614,000, accounted for almost exactly all of the AJSN’s improvement. The fringe categories increased overall, but the shares of people in them who would take a readily available position was almost unchanged. Although those wanting to work but not searching for it in the past year dropped 150,000, people claiming they were discouraged gained 81,000, and the numbers of those with family responsibilities, in school or training, with temporary ill health or disability, and otherwise not available to work also rose. To summarize February’s data with little oversimplification, the 600,000+ working who were not last month came from the number of unemployed.
Latent Demand %
Latent Demand Total
In School or Training
Ill Health or Disability
Did Not Search for Work In Previous Year
Not Available to Work Now
Do Not Want a Job
Non-Civilian and Institutionalized, 15+
Even with the improvement, American job status is much the same. There are still 8.0 million working part-time for economic, hours-availability reasons. Those out of work for 27 weeks or longer stayed at 4.8 million. The AJSN above, rounding to 21.8 million, is the second highest since August. The population 15 and over increased an estimated 166,000, and if demand for jobs increased accordingly a reasonable 100,000, given seasonal variation it would take 80 months as good as this one to cut the AJSN in half. So if you see lead sentences asserting that America’s getting back to work, you will know the proper response is “not yet.” At the current rate, maybe late in Rubio’s first term.
So while we can be happy about February’s jobs data, that should be tempered. Was it good news? Yes. Was it a fundamental improvement in the jobs crisis? Absolutely not.