The word on the electronic street, coming in to this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, was that it was going to be a good month, with 190,000 net new nonfarm payroll positions added. It didn’t work out that way, though as we will see it was hardly a thumbs-down report either.
We added 148,000 jobs, not an embarrassment but only about 15,000 more than we need for our increasing population. Average private nonfarm payroll wages were up 8 cents per hour, a few cents more than inflation, to reach $26.63. The count of what the BLS calls “long-term unemployed,” or those jobless for the past 27 weeks or longer, fell 100,000 to 1.5 million, but the number of those working part-time for economic reasons, or keeping less than full-time positions while looking thus far unsuccessfully for something beyond that category, rose the same amount to 4.9 million.
The other significant statistics broke even. There are still 6.6 million officially unemployed. Seasonally adjusted and unadjusted joblessness are still at 4.1% and 3.9% respectively. The two measures of how common it is for Americans to be working, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio, held at 62.7% and 60.1%.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the metric showing in one figure how many more positions could be quickly filled if all knew that getting one were as easy as getting a pizza, didn’t change much either. However, with a sharp increase in those claiming no interest in working, and gains or no change in all seven categories of marginal attachment, especially those wanting work but not looking for the past year, the difference was unfavorable, up just over 100,000 as follows:
Compared with a year before, however, the AJSN has shown real improvement, completely in the number of those officially unemployed, down since December 2016 from 7,170,000 to 6,278,000. There was a drop of 255,000 in the count of people not having looked for work in the past year, but that was more than erased by rises in the numbers of those in the armed services or off the grid and the best estimate of American expatriates.
So where did we go this month? Once again, nowhere. As before, where we are camping out is not so bad, with low unemployment and participation rates significantly above their 2015-2016 lows, but that is very much what we are doing. However, our employment situation has stopped improving. Whether that is plenty good enough, woefully inadequate, or somewhere in between is for you to judge. For the third straight month, though, the turtle did not move a leg muscle.