Friday, May 3, 2013

April Jobs Data: Treading Water, with AJSN Still Over 20 Million


In this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data, changes from March were relatively small.  The country added an adjusted 165,000 jobs, and official unemployment dropped fractionally to round to 7.5%.  Secondary BLS measures were split, with a 258,000 decrease in long-term unemployed but 278,000 more working part-time for economic reasons.  Probably the most telling number beyond the publicized unemployment rate, civilian labor force participation, held onto its March drop, staying at 63.3%.   The American Jobs Shortage Number, or AJSN, ended up just short of 20.1 million, as follows:

AJSN
APRIL 2013
Total Latent Demand % Latent Demand Total
Unemployed 11,014,000 90 9,912,600
Discouraged 835,000 90 751,500
Family Responsibilities 243,000 30 72,900
In School or Training 341,000 50 170,500
Ill Health or Disability 163,000 10 16,300
Other 765,000 30 229,500
Did Not Search for Work In  Previous Year 3,196,000 80 2,556,800
Not Available to Work Now 786,000 30 235,800
Do Not Want a Job 84,107,000 5 4,205,350
Non-Civilian and Institutionalized, 15+ 6,731,656 10 673,166
American Expatriates 6,320,000 20 1,264,000
TOTAL     20,088,416
 
Of the numbers above, by far the largest change was to the number of unemployed, which fell 801,000.  The unpublicized unadjusted employment rate, in fact, dropped to 7.1%.  The number of people reporting they did not search for work in the previous year decreased a surprising 221,000, and numbers of those in school or in training, along with non-civilians, had modest declines.  The largest increase above was of people reporting they were now not available to work, which gained 130,000, followed by those with family responsibilities preventing their employment , up 68,000.

The good news is that this report was hardly the devastating one feared by investors and others, some of whom predicted a net loss of American jobs.  The work situation in effect broke even, with an adjusted gain of positions in line with the increasing population.  Official unemployment, the only job statistic many people are aware of, once again dropped, so there will be no panic on the work front.

The bad news was that the worst area, labor force participation, did not improve.  Despite other numbers, particularly the count of people saying they did not want a job at all, increasing less than usual, Americans are more and more often opting for lifestyles without jobs.  To their credit, many commentators called that, not the slightly lower unemployment rate, the big story of the March data.  Labor force participation did not get worse, but did not rebound from the previous month’s fall either. 

Overall, the April employment report was business as usual.  The United States is still doing better than its most comparable countries; its joblessness does not even approach the Eurozone’s latest 12.1%, not to mention Spain’s depression-level 27.2%.  Yet what “green shoots” we have now are solidly offset by growing population and the numbers of people leaving the labor force altogether.  Once again, we are not in a recession now, or anything close, and the chance of one is much higher than that of any significant improvement.  Fewer people working mean fewer people able to spend, so cash and its equivalents will stay idle in the hands of the wealthiest individuals and the largest corporations.  The political climate seems to prohibit any large spending increases, and globalization, automation, and efficiency keep marching on.  If we are happy with the post-2010 status quo, the April work data was a winner; if not, the figures give us nothing to cheer us up.

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