America Now 19.9 Million Jobs Short as Exodus from Labor Force Accelerates
In today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, the words and phrases standing out are those of stability. The official, seasonally-adjusted employment percentage, now 7.3%, “changed little.” Rates by sex and race “showed little or no change.” The count of long-term jobless, 4.1 million out 27 weeks or longer, “was little changed,” as was the 8.1 million employed part-time for lack of full-time opportunity, and the overall 2.4 million with statuses somewhere between not interested in working and officially unemployed. All much the same, the message seems to be.
Yet the Summary did admit to some disturbing, if not directionally changing, differences. In October, a month usually quite similar to the previous one, the civilian labor force tumbled 720,000, resulting in a 62.8% labor force participation rate and a 58.3% employment to population ratio. Those are both new multi-decade records, lower than any since 1977 and 1976 respectively.
Overall, the American Job Shortage Number (AJSN) dropped about 113,000, as follows:
|Total||Latent Demand %||Latent Demand Total|
|In School or Training||233,000||50||116,500|
|Ill Health or Disability||169,000||10||16,900|
|Did Not Search for Work In Previous Year||2,949,000||80||2,359,200|
|Not Available to Work Now||451,000||30||135,300|
|Do Not Want a Job||85,780,000||5||4,289,000|
|Non-Civilian, Institutionalized, and Unaccounted For, 15+||9,434,354||10||943,435|
The largest variation since September was in the number of those saying they did not want a job at all, which increased a stunning 922,000. For one month, that is a gigantic change. Those officially unemployed fell 112,000. People unavailable for work for being in school or training dropped 91,000, those discouraged were down 37,000, and those not available for jobs due to unnamed reasons rose 88,000. Official non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment was steady at 7.0%.
Compared with October 2012, there are now about one million fewer officially jobless, 36% fewer naming school and training (wow!), almost 10% fewer saying they had not looked for a year, and 2.7 million more not wanting to work at all. Other AJSN component numbers were much the same, resulting in the indicator’s drop of 688,000.
As for last month’s government shutdown, the Situation Summary admitted to some confusion about the furloughed federal workers, many of whom reported at survey time that they were unemployed. Although the report was delayed one week to help straighten out such issues, the BLS’s words make it clear that adjustments will be made later. When they are, the official unemployment rate’s increase from 7.2% to 7.3% will probably disappear.
So, what are we left with? No jobs-crisis progress at all. Though I don’t expect almost a million more people to choose a no-employment lifestyle each month, that is clearly how Americans are reacting to the lack of work. The headline unemployment numbers aren’t changing much, but other observers have done well to consistently see that as no sign of health. At best, we are treading water, with too many people out of work for too long. At worst, the base of the United States economy is shrinking. There are virtually no job-creating or even job-facilitating efforts in progress in Washington. Overall, I see no reason why our economic situation, whatever you consider it to be, will improve.