As did most analysts, I expected this morning’s federal employment data to be worse than it was. I anticipated maybe 100,000 net new jobs to disappoint again, and the official unemployment rate to hold.
It was better. Not only did the Employment Situation Summary data far outperform these two estimates, with 248,000 and a drop from 6.1% to 5.9%, but the measures feeding into the American Job Shortage Number were almost all improved. The result was the lowest AJSN since 2009, down almost 1.2 million as follows:
The number of unemployed fell over 800,000, some but not all due to more jobs generally available in September than in August. There were 77,000 fewer discouraged workers, defined as those who thought no jobs were available to them, and over 400,000 – many – fewer reported wanting work but not looking for it for at least a year. Once again with September more Americans stood up and were counted, as the non-civilian, institutionalized, off the grid, and otherwise unaccounted-for category decreased over one million. The only significant exceptions were, as expected with the new academic year, the set of people wanting jobs but in school or training, up one-third, and the number that keeps going up, those claiming no interest in work whatever. That last one is now over 86 million, and, even at its low and conservative estimate of 5% taking jobs if they were more available, it accounts for more latent demand than any category other than official unemployment.
Compared with a year before, the AJSN was also greatly improved. In September 2013, it was a hair short of 20 million, with the almost 2 million more officially jobless only partially offset by lower counts of those not having looked for work in the past year and those not wanting it at all. Unadjusted unemployment was down also, all the way from 7.0% to 5.7%.
The main four secondary statistics, though, were mixed. While the count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting full-time jobs but not finding them, edged 100,000 below the bottom of its 2014-long range at 7.1 million, the other three did not improve. Long-term unemployed, or those looking for 27 weeks or longer, stayed at 3.0 million, and the employment to population ratio is still 59.0%. The labor force participation rate dropped to 62.7%, a new post-1978 low.
In the current scheme of things, September was a fine month. Yet ever-lower labor force participation and ever-higher counts of people claiming no interest in jobs mean that America is not going back to work again. That may never happen. These are good times, however, and with the permanent employment crisis not being addressed are the best they will be. Enjoy them while they’re here – if you have a job.