Here we go again. Official seasonally adjusted unemployment dropped to 6.1 percent in June, the lowest since the Great Recession kicked off in 2008. Payrolls gained 288,000, or about double the number needed to cover population growth. Yet the number of jobs Americans could quickly absorb went up again. Why?
The reason is that the raw number of unemployed actually increased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reported figure, which is seasonally adjusted, dropped 325,000, but that takes into account a lot of jobs ending when school years end. The unadjusted number was plus 450,000 – 775,000 worse.
Other employment numbers were mixed. The left-over group of non-civilian, institutionalized, and unaccounted for was almost unchanged, up 5,000, so we can easily compare the others. The number of people working rose over 700,000, which combines with the gain in the unemployed for a 1.15 million labor force increase. The number of people saying they did not want a job at all shrunk 600,000, and the counts of those not looking in the previous year and temporarily not available to work now lost about 100,000 apiece. Seasonally unadjusted unemployment went the opposite of the more commonly reported one, going up from 6.1% to 6.3%. Overall, the American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, gained 212,000, as follows:
While the labor force participation rate and the employment to population ratio essentially treaded water at 62.8% and 59.0%, the most disturbing figure was the count of people working part-time for economic reasons, up 275,000 to 7.5 million. That is almost the same increase as the number of jobs gained, meaning that June’s 288,000 rise was nearly equivalent to adding only that many part-time positions.
Compared with a year before, the AJSN is almost 1.9 million lower. In June 2013 there were 2.35 million more officially jobless and over 350,000 more officially discouraged, but 2.8 million fewer claiming no interest in work and only half as many in the service, in institutions, off the grid, or otherwise lost to the numbers. Accordingly, while a lot of people have found work in the past year, many more have decided they don’t want it, or have disappeared completely.
So how good was June? The gain of 288,000 net jobs, even if seasonally adjusted, is positive. The 600,000-plus increase in Americans deciding they might like to work after all can be accounted for by the official unemployment rate drop, attracting them back into the market. Yet the jump in those working part-time not by choice is disturbing.
Overall, we’ll call this morning’s employment data slightly positive. The turtle is crawling forward again. Yet a turtle, still, is only a turtle.