Some will say today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary was first-class, and according to the most publicized number, total net nonfarm payroll employment jumped 353,000, almost matching both published estimates I saw combined, it was. Bur how about the rest?
Seasonally adjusted unemployment held at 3.7%, with the unadjusted
variety, reflecting how many people work in December but not in January, up
from 3.5% to 4.1%. The adjusted count of
unemployed was off 200,000 to 6.1 million, again consistent with the unadjusted
gain of just under 900,000 to 6,778,000.
The number claiming no interest in working dropped 716,000, losing most
of December’s gain, to 95.149 million.
Unadjusted employment fell a seasonal 1.1 million. The count of long-term joblessness, people
out of work for 12 months or longer, fell 100,000 to 1.1 million, and the tally
of people working part-time for economic reasons, or keeping part-time
positions while so far not finding full-time ones they want, matched last month’s
change with a 200,000 gain, and is now at a dispiriting 4.4 million. The two measures of how common it is for
Americans to be working or nearly so, the labor force participation rate and
the employment-population ratio, stayed the same and gained 0.1% respectively
to reach 62.5% and 60.2%.
The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the metric showing
how many additional positions could be quickly filled if everyone knew they
could be obtained easily and routinely, increased almost 1.2 million to the
Almost 800,000 of the change was from higher unemployment,
with nearly all the remainder from those not looking for a year or more and those
discouraged. The share of the AJSN from the
officially jobless rose 2.3% to 35.6%. As
the AJSN is not seasonally adjusted, this result is not particularly
discouraging, however, when compared with the measure a year before it has
gained over 400,000, mostly from higher unemployment.
How should we assess this data? It is generally good, but what is noteworthy
to me is how much the number of people with positions increases month after
month, but the unemployment rates and the measures of partial attachment above don’t
improve. Since for the past year or two
we have known about “overemployment,” or people secretly having more than one
full-time job, is it possible that many of these 353,000 additional people
working were doing that already? Those
taking on extra jobs may be no more honest with pollsters than they are with
employers. It would not be a shock to
discover that the 159-plus million people reported as working are really
something like 155 million, with over 4,000,000 undiscovered multi-job
workers. I don’t know if that is
technically possible, but if it is, it is worthy of investigation. In the meantime, the turtle took another small
step – but no more than that – forward.