Friday, February 2, 2024

This Morning’s Report: Another Big Jobs Gain, But Other Results Aren’t Following, and Latent Demand Grew 1.2 Million to 17,152,000 Per the AJSN

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 following:

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. 

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