July was a consolidation month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data was barely different from June’s, as the labor force participation rate, the employment-to-population ratio, and the headline seasonally adjusted jobless rate were all unchanged. We gained 215,000 net jobs last month, a tad lower than in June, but still more than the population increase could cover, and unadjusted unemployment rose, due to fewer people working as usual in July than in June, to 5.6%. The number of long-term jobless, or those out for 27 weeks or more and still looking, bounced back partway from its 400,000 June drop to 2.2 million, and, in the best news of the month, those working part-time for economic reasons, or people wanting to extend their labor hours to full-time and not finding the opportunity, fell 200,000 to 6.3 million.
What is most significant, except the last improvement, is that the 37-plus year lows in labor force participation and employment as a share of population, the best indicators of how common it is for Americans to have jobs, held last month’s losses. Often when one of these numbers varies greatly from the month before it reverses somewhat in the next, as did long-term unemployment as above, but these two did not. That means they have a real chance of setting new post-1977 lows again for August.
The American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, showing latent demand for additional jobs, increased 83,000 last month. That was actually less than the growth in the share of those officially unemployed expected to take work if it were readily available. As it usually does, those reporting they would accept jobs if they were not in school or training fell from June to July, and people wanting work but not having looked for it for a year or more did the same. In all, the AJSN came in as follows:
Compared with a year before, the AJSN has shown real improvement. In July 2014, there were 1.5 million more officially jobless, meaning that if 90% of them would take work if it were easy to find, that set of people would absorb 1.35 million more positions than now. The other groups offset a tiny bit of that. Fifty-eight percent of these jobs would now be filled by people not technically unemployed, higher than in previous months but still not far from historic lows.
So where are we now? This month splendidly fits with the movements of 2015 – new jobs moderately but not massively outstripping population gains, fewer Americans working part-time for economic reasons and staying officially unemployed for over six months, but jobs becoming, proportionally, less and less common. Those are the modern trends. We are also piling up years without a true recession – a fine thing, but not one assured of continuing indefinitely. The jobs crisis, if softened somewhat, continues, even if the turtle is still moving forward.