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Joblessness, Jobs Numbers, Unemployment and other Confusing Government Statistics

Even the vice president isn’t sure how or if the tragically high unemployment rates will come down. Remember in April of 2010 when Joe Biden predicted that the American economy would be producing as many as 500,000 new jobs very soon.

I’m here to tell you some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month..

It’s been over a year since those statements were made and for the first time were seeing something that at least approaches Mr. Biden’s lowest estimated growth. For April, the economy created 244,000 jobs according to a U.S. Labor Department report. A surprise to the up-side as forecasters had only been seeking a report with just 186,000 new jobs. Unfortunately for 13.7 million Americans, they are still unemployed – that figure remained unchanged in April.

There is a tale between the numbers. While private sector employment rose by 244,000 jobs, of which were 62,000 from McDonald’s recent hiring spree, the numbers of unemployed are actual getting worse. The national unemployment rate rose .2% to 9.0% and the governments U-6 statistic, which includes discouraged workers, grew to 15.9% from 15.7% in March. If the economy is creating all those jobs, how can more people be failing to find a job for themselves?

April Unemployment Graph

A Rueters analysis of the jobless report found some interesting items, but no real answer for the divergence between new jobs and an increase in the unemployment rate:

* U.S. retail employment posted a large gain of 57,100 jobs, though some economists were suspicious of seasonal adjustments due to a late Easter holiday.

* Construction employment remained anemic, with the sector adding just 5,000 jobs. The housing sector remains depressed and could be a further drag on growth in coming months, but it is now a smaller chunk of the overall economy, which in part mutes its negative effect.

* Surging energy and commodity costs were expected to discourage employers from taking on new workers but that appears not to have happened. The strong payrolls figure suggests business confidence remains strong despite a sharp run-up in energy costs.

* A decline in temporary help services jobs is hard to read. Generally, increases in temporary jobs are seen as a harbinger of future growth in permanent jobs.

*The breakdown showed big increases in professional and business employment — indicating a more broad-based improvement rather than in simply low-end jobs.

Some make the case that discouraged workers returning to the workforce that caused the rate to hit 9%, but the labor force participation rate did not change. That means that as a percentage of working age Americans, the labor pool did not increase in size over the previous three months and is still the lowest in 25 years.

The civilian labor force participation rate was 64.2 percent for the fourth consecutive month.[1]

That leaves an awkward, unexplained disimilarity between the Jobs report and the household unemployment survey. Then again, when looking at government statistics, and finding two sets that don’t agree .. you realize perhaps neither is the whole story.


Sources:

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employment Situation Summary – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

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