When I read this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release, I thought the American Job Shortage Number would stay about the same as last month’s 17.485 million. This measure, showing the strength of latent employment demand, depends on official joblessness, which stayed the same, more than any other factor. Seasonally, there is little difference between October and November, so the only thing that would allow the AJSN to drop significantly would be lower counts of people in the fringe categories. And that is exactly what happened.
The jobs report looked at first glance like treading water. Adjusted and unadjusted unemployment both stayed at October’s 5.0% and 4.8% (the gap is because autumn is an above average time for work opportunities), long-term unemployment or the number of people looking for jobs but not finding them for 27 weeks or longer held at 2.1 million, wage growth was a lukewarm 4 cents per hour, and the employment-population ratio stayed the same at 59.3%. The good news, 211,000 net new jobs once again exceeding population increase and the labor force participation rate up 0.1% to 62.5%, was offset by a 319,000 rise in those working part-time for economic reasons, or unsuccessfully seeking full-time positions, to 6.1 million.
The sets of those marginally attached, though, showed broad-based improvement. Those wanting work but not looking for it in the previous year fell 190,000, cutting that group’s latent demand for jobs 152,000. There were 71,000 fewer discouraged but not technically unemployed workers, who would take readily available jobs at the same rate as those in the 5.0%. The count of those in school or training was down 16%, and those in the “Other” category, wanting work but being temporarily unavailable for it for less likely reasons, fell 13%. The only significant gainer was, as it usually is, the “do not want a job” group, up over 500,000 and, even estimating only 5% would accept employment, adding 27,800 to the metric. Overall, the AJSN fell 255,000 to over 7.2 million, as follows:
Compared with November 2014 the AJSN is down 1.35 million, with two-thirds of that from lower official joblessness and most of the rest from fewer people reporting they wanted work but did not search for it in the past year.
So where are we now? With the numbers of those marginally attached showing real improvement, this jobs report is underrated. The 211,000 net new positions was not tremendous, but with a permanent crisis in place we can’t take its roughly 80,000 more than net newcomers could absorb for granted. Overall, the month was better than many in the past year when official unemployment fell. The turtle, indeed, took another step in the right direction.