Dull. Nondescript. Undistinctive. Unsurprising. Inconclusive.
Those words could be used to describe this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics federal employment issue. The 175,000 net new jobs were almost exactly the 172,000 estimate offered in The New York Times’s Economix blog. The headline seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up, though only a tenth of a percent to 6.7%.
Although official joblessness rose, the American Job Shortage Number (AJSN) decreased over 300,000, mostly on smaller counts of discouraged workers and those not having looked in the previous year. The total number of additional American positions that could be quickly filled is still almost 20.3 million, with its components as follows:
|Total||Latent Demand %||Latent Demand Total|
|In School or Training||275,000||50||137,500|
|Ill Health or Disability||173,000||10||17,300|
|Did Not Search for Work In Previous Year||3,216,000||80||2,572,800|
|Not Available to Work Now||572,000||30||171,600|
|Do Not Want a Job||85,968,000||5||4,298,400|
|Non-Civilian, Institutionalized, and Unaccounted For, 15+||10,110,009||10||1,011,001|
Those in school or training dropped, a strange thing to happen between January and February, by 72,000, while those saying they just plain didn’t want to work also found an unusual decrease, of 58,000, as did the non-civilian, institutionalized, and unknown group, off 449,000.
Two of last month’s favorable changes held their gains; the labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, more important in assessing the availability of work than the unemployment rate, stayed at 63.0% and 58.8%. The number of people working part-time when they would prefer full-time improved to 7.2 million, while the count of long-term unemployed, officially jobless for 27 weeks or longer, gained back nearly all of its January loss and now stands at 3.8 million. Seasonally unadjusted unemployment stayed at 7.0%.
Compared with a year ago, the AJSN is now almost 1.5 million lower. Almost the entire reason is fewer people unemployed, down 1.6 million. Although over 3 million more are non-civilian, in institutions, or off the grid, 362,000 fewer report they want to work but haven’t looked over the past year, and 130,000 fewer are officially discouraged. The number saying they didn’t want a job at all increased, as it is almost certain to continue doing, to 2.7 million.
So what can we take away from this data? First, the employment situation seems to have stabilized, with the number of jobs rising remarkably consistently with the rise in the adult population, and enough Americans choosing other lifestyles and otherwise leaving the labor force to keep official unemployment steadyish. Second, the number of work opportunities and the number of Americans are still parting company, though slowly for now. Third, we are not in a recession, but in our modern-day steady state. If we think that is good enough, we should be happy – if not, today’s data gave us no reason at all for optimism.