This morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment and unemployment data has arrived, and as usual there is good news and bad news. The good news is that unemployment is down, with 685,000 more Americans working than in the month before. The other categories of marginal labor attachment were consistently down as well, with those saying they did not search for work in the previous year, those claiming family responsibilities, and those simply discouraged dropping the most. Though seasonal differences essentially accounted for the increase in jobs, the country’s labor situation did not get worse in March.
The bad news is contained in one number – those who say they do not want a job. That increased 826,000 from February to March, and in turn caused a labor force drop of 496,000 and a labor force participation rate fall to a new multi-year low of 63.3%. Here is the latest American Jobs Shortage Number data:
|Total||Latent Demand %||Latent Demand Total|
|In School or Training||381,000||50||190,500|
|Ill Health or Disability||148,000||10||14,800|
|Did Not Search for Work In Previous Year||3,417,000||80||2,733,600|
|Not Available to Work Now||656,000||30||196,800|
|Do Not Want a Job||84,084,000||5||4,204,200|
|Non-Civilian and Institutionalized, 15+||6,790,804||10||679,080|
In other BLS news, the number of unemployed 27 weeks or longer stayed much the same at 4.6 million, but the count of those working part-time for economic reasons improved greatly, dropping over 300,000 to 7.6 million.
So what can we infer from this data? There are no tremendous changes here, and that is the point. Though unemployment was not worse in March than in February, we continue to see more and more people deciding they are not going to be in the labor force at all. Those saying they do not want a job gained over 800,000, and that is a lot. Labor force participation, which peaked at about 67% in the late 1990s with nearly full employment of women, is returning to the territory from whence it came.
In short, America is not going back to work. The reported seasonally adjusted increase of 88,000 on United States payrolls was once again not enough to cover population increase. We have seen worse, but the trends we have seen especially over the past five years are continuing, and that is not a good thing. If employment were as easy for the rest of us as it is in western North Dakota, we would have over 20 million more Americans paying taxes and using less in social services. That is our foremost national problem, and both parties need to address it.