Friday, February 7, 2014

Employment Update: January 2014

All right, let’s kick off reporting on the employment situation in 2014. We’ve added 113,000 new jobs. At the same time, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also published major revisions to its employment series going all the way back to the year 2000. Such changes take place from time to time. The nature of these changes is summarized by BLS thus:

Establishment survey data have been revised as a result of the annual benchmarking process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors. Also, household survey data for January 2014 reflect updated population estimates.

The consequence of these changes is that all the numbers I use here (going back to November of 2007) also change. Therefore all the charts you see here have been updated to reflect benchmark adjustments and population estimates. The net effect of these changes, as measured from November of 2007, is to add 110,000 jobs to the labor force. According to the changes, the job losses were greater in the 2008-2009 period (worse by 85,000 jobs) but the recovery has been stronger than reported earlier (better by 195,000 jobs). The net effect is that 110,000 gain over previous reports.

Looking at the charts, however, the basic pattern has not changed. But as of January 2014, we have now recovered 90.2 percent of jobs lost in 2008-2009—and have 9.8 percent to go.

The job gains in January, however, are rather anemic at 113,000. If that pattern continues, job gains in 2014 will only be 58 percent of 2013. Such an outcome, however, is highly unlikely. Job gains in January had much to do with wretched weather conditions, a “too much” or “too little” of everything: too many storms, too cold, and too much snow on the one hand and too little water on the other. Everything’s connected—and climate change has its influence on this series too…

Herewith the revised chart showing monthly change since the end of 2007. Comparing this chart with last month’s shows that the pattern has not been changed by the BLS revisions. The BLS press release on which these data are based is here.

As I did last year, so again this year, I am showing, in the following graphic, projected performance in 2014. The projection simply assumes that actual data, as of the time of publication, will be the same for the rest of the year. The formula is total job gains in the year, divided by the number of months covered, times 12. Today’s result is not encouraging but will undoubtedly lift as we plod on.

The unemployment rate remains at 6.6 percent. This is a figure I rarely mention because it is based on estimates of the work-force, those actually working and those actively seeking employment. Those who’ve given up are excluded from the work force although, if jobs were available, they would gladly work.

A positive note for January: employment grew in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and mining. Three of those four growing sectors are basic industry.

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