Same. Same. Same. Good, but hardly super. Likewise.
These were some of my written notes next to numbers on my printout of this morning’s Employment Situation Summary, the document that certain economics reporters are given once a month around 8:00 AM Washington time after their phones are taken away, and the rest of us get to see soon after 8:30. The other two were “Up 200,000” (next to the latest count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting full-time positions but only able to keep shorter ones, now at 6.1 million), and “Less than inflation this time,” next to the average wage gain of 3 cents per hour to $25.73. The five Sames were next to the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, meaning the likelihood of Americans actually having jobs or counting as officially unemployed did not change, and the number of people technically jobless for 27 weeks or longer. These figures remained at 62.8%, 59.7%, and 2.0 million.
As for the “good, but hardly super” outcomes, I think that well describes the net nonfarm payroll gain of 151,000, which is about 20,000 over what our monthly population gain absorbs, and the adjusted employment rate staying at 4.9 percent. Unadjusted joblessness improved 0.1% to 5.0%, though, reflecting August typically having more employment than July.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, showing hidden as well as obvious demand for work, improved more than 400,000 as follows:
The largest changes to the AJSN were caused by a smaller actual number of unemployed (the AJSN is not seasonally adjusted), along with a fall of over 200,000 in those wanting work but not seeking it in the past year. On the other side, the count of those claiming no interest whatever in being employed gained over 1.5 million, pushing up latent demand over 75,000 even at the AJSN’s conservative estimate that 5% of them would work if something suitable presented itself.
The most noteworthy AJSN change was in its year-over-year comparison, which improved almost not at all. Annual drops had been around 900,000 as recently as three months ago, then 700,000 in June and 531,000 last month, and now the difference is only 88,000. That means that our latent job demand, and to a real extent our overall employment situation, has leveled off and is no longer getting better. Even though those officially jobless would now absorb 149,000 fewer positions than in August 2015, the shares of people precluding their eligibility by not looking in the past year, those not wanting work at all, and our most current estimate of citizen expatriates combine to roughly offset that improvement.
So are we better off than a month before? No. Worse off? No. We’re the same. No recession. No further recovery. American employment went nowhere in August. Even though preliminary August projections were not even approached, if we were happy with July, we have every reason to be content now. If, as it seems, the Federal Reserve governors were itching to raise interest rates, they’ll do it. Meanwhile, the turtle stayed right where it was.