This morning, I was ready to declare a Pee-wee’s Playhouse era of federal employment reports – in other words, we’ll never know who or what we’ll see. This month, though, came in at almost exactly what would be expected after May’s wild data, if we decided were not expecting a recession. Official joblessness rebounded upwards to 4.9%. We gained 287,000 net new nonfarm positions, up from the previous 38,000. Those looking for 27 weeks or longer gave back half of last month’s improvement to reach 2.0 million. The count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or holding on to less than full-time jobs while wanting and not finding one of those, more than erased its huge worsening, losing back not only the 468,000 it gained in May but another 121,000. The two measures showing best how likely it is for Americans to be working, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, were split, with the former regaining half of the 0.2% it fell last time to reach 62.7%, and the latter down 0.1% on higher official joblessness to 59.6%. Unadjusted unemployment was up beyond the seasonal effect of more people working in May than in June, going from 4.5% to 5.1%. Average wages rose a little something, 2 cents per hour, to $25.61.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, showing in one number our latent demand for additional positions, gained over 550,000, as the officially unemployed, up 937,000, can now absorb almost 6.5 million new jobs. About one quarter of that was offset by a 269,000 fall in the count of those wanting to work but not looking for a year or more; the numbers of those temporarily unable to take jobs, and those saying they did not want them at all, were also down significantly. Overall, the AJSN came in as follows:
Compared with a year before, the AJSN is down just over 700,000, with lower official unemployment, but also fewer discouraged and fewer not looking for a year or more. The year-over-year improvements are shrinking but are still large, meaning that prospects for Americans to find jobs continue to get better.
If we spread out May’s nuttiness by taking the last two months together, where are we? The headline unemployment rate is down from 5.0% to 4.9%, net new nonfarm jobs gained an average of 162,500 per month, and the long-term jobless and those working part-time for economic reasons each fell almost 200,000, but the two key percentages each worsened 0.1%. Pay was up 4 cents per month, roughly equal to inflation. Accordingly, we are still slightly improving, though the lower employment-population ratio and labor force participation rate remain causes for concern. In six months, will we be plumbing new depths, or will we be higher than we have been for years? Probably neither. In the meantime, the turtle took a good step forward.