When I saw this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, I glanced at a few numbers and thought “another lousy month.” Yes, it was that, but a few things in the report are worthy of note.
First, the main factor pushing the American Job Shortage Number up to 20.6 million was the number of unemployed, which, not seasonally adjusted, rose almost 900,000. Second, the count of people wanting to work but not technically jobless due to not looking for at least a year soared over 400,000, while those claiming to have no interest in employment fell almost 400,000. Those together show just how non-binding these categories are for many, in particular that some who claim they don’t want to see the inside of a workplace may reconsider when they think their chances might be better. Third, offsetting the poorish job increase data, four key secondary factors showed real improvement. The number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or longer dropped 232,000, those working part-time for economic reasons plunged 514,000, the labor force participation rate increased to 63.0%, and the employment to population ratio went up to 58.8%. These numbers have not been getting much better lately, and while still inferior, could be the start of something.
The AJSN components for January are as follows:
Other changes from December include 80,000 fewer discouraged workers, 101,000 more in school or training, and 222,000 more in institutions, in the military, or falling through the statistical cracks. The non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increased from 6.5% to 7.0%.
Compared with a year ago, when the AJSN was almost 22.4 million, the American employment situation has substantially improved. Since January 2013, unemployment is down 2.3 million, and the group of those wanting to work but having not looked for at least a year lost almost 300,000, but over three million more claim no interest in employment, and almost 4 million more were non-civilian, institutionalized, or not accounted for.
Yes, with the number of jobs added once again not covering population increase, January was a poor month. We will see, though, if the improvement in the long-term jobless and involuntary part-time workers will continue. If it does, times may truly be improving. If those figures bounce back to where they were in the fall, we will be left with no reason to see progress in American jobs.