Another data month, another set of seemingly similar results. There were 257,000 net new seasonally adjusted United States jobs in January, very close to the 252,000 gained in December. Headline unemployment ticked up 0.1% to 5.7%. Labor force participation reversed its 0.2% December fall and is now at 62.9%, whereas the employment to population ratio, steady last month, gained 0.1% to reach 59.3 percent. The number of long-term unemployed, or those officially jobless for 27 weeks or longer, held at 2.8 million, and there are still 6.8 million working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting a full-time position but not finding one.
When looking at seasonally unadjusted numbers, though, January, as always with that month, was less favorable. There are now almost 9.5 million people jobless, up over 1.1 million from December. Unadjusted official unemployment jumped from 5.4% to 6.1%. As for people marginally attached to the labor force, those wanting work but not looking for it for a year or longer shot up about 10% to 3.6 million, though there were 58,000 fewer describing themselves as discouraged. With no other significant changes in other work statuses, the AJSN, or American Job Shortage Number, is now over 19.5 million, as follows:
Although much of this data, net of clear seasonal differences, has leveled off over the past several months, the American jobs situation is still better than a year ago. In January 2014 the AJSN was 20.6 million, with many more officially unemployed and discouraged. Two numbers which have worsened since then, though, are those not looking for the previous year, up 129,000, and expatriates, almost 1.3 million higher.
So how good is the American employment condition now? The last year or two remind me of a dieter losing half a pound a week – improving admirably but never greatly. Can our economy continue to progress this steadily for a few more years, with no recessions? I am not optimistic, and still see no reason for much larger gains no matter what happens. However we are doing better, with the turtle plodding forward once again.