This morning’s data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show improvement. It is small, but broad-based to an extent we don’t see too often. While the headline number, the seasonally-adjusted employment rate, stayed the same, almost everything else of overall national significance got better. The count of net jobs added, 192,000, more than covered population increase. The number of long-term jobless, those out for 27 weeks or more, went from 3.8 million in February to 3.7 million. Labor force participation improved from 63.0% to 63.2%, and the share of the population working rose from 58.8% to 58.9%. Almost every one of the federal marginally attached categories – all, in fact, except those out for ill health or disability – shrank. The result is a lower American Job Shortage Number, as follows:
Compared with a year before, the AJSN is now 1.2 million lower. Although, compared with March 2013, over 1.6 million more Americans report not wanting a job at all, and 2.7 million additional are off the grid, almost 1.3 million more have work, and the other secondary categories have generally improved.
With almost everything getting better, why, you ask, did the AJSN not improve more than 544,000? It’s not seasonality – February and March are similar for employment. The reason is that the improvements were small. Last month was not a banner one for jobs, but in the right direction.
So how much better shape are we actually in? Some of the improvement didn’t really happen, as bad February weather made that month’s numbers look worse than they actually were, with problems not only with people working but with reporting. Two measures also did not get better at all – unadjusted unemployment stayed at 6.8%, and the count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting full-time employment but not finding it, rose from 7.2 million to 7.4 million.
However, even though the previous set of employment statistics were poorer quality than usual, its numbers were nothing depressing. And here in March, we have real improvement, small though it may be. Will slow and steady win the American jobs race? That depends on something very much unknown – just how long the turtle can keep plodding forward.