Not much was supposed to happen in this morning’s monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics national employment report – and not much did.
Most of what was there, though, was good. Although official seasonally adjusted unemployment increased from 4.6% to 4.7%, two behind-the curtain numbers which got better in November improved again. The count of those out of work for 27 weeks or longer dropped another 100,000 to 1.8 million, as did the tally of people working part-time for economic reasons, or keeping shorter-hours positions while looking thus far unsuccessfully for longer ones, now 5.6 million. Average private nonfarm hourly earnings, after taking a one-month break with a small loss, almost matched October’s 13-cent increase to reach an even $26.00. The two percentages which show better than any other figures how common it is for Americans to actually be working, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, held steady at 62.7% and 59.7%. There were a population-gain-exceeding 156,000 net new nonfarm positions, and seasonally unadjusted joblessness matched the adjusted’s rise to go from 4.4% to 4.5%.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, which shows in one metric how many more positions could be filled if getting one were as easy as buying a movie ticket, gained a modest 126,000, as growths in the counts of those wanting work but not looking for it for at least a year (up over 200,000) and officially unemployed (up just over 100,000) more than offset the surprising 165,000 fall in those describing themselves as “discouraged.” Overall, the AJSN came in at just over 17 million, as follows:
Compared with a year before, the AJSN is down 475,000, reflecting substantially reduced numbers of those discouraged and officially jobless. The one that keeps climbing, the count of those claiming no interest whatever in working, rose 1.34 million, adding 67,000 to the latent demand which the AJSN measures.
So how are we looking now? Favorable. We could still use many more work opportunities, and there remain too many people working part-time not by choice, but we ended the last full Obama-administration month with not only a massive eight-year improvement but reasonable figures in general. We will see if Trump’s team will hold the gain, improve further on it, or let it go back to the likes of 10% official unemployment. In the meantime, the turtle, once again, took a small step forward.