Ever more unemployment

By Felix Salmon
May 8, 2009
As you can see, as recently as February, adult men were no more likely to be unemployed than the population as a whole. ... But with adult-male unemployment rapidly approaching 10%, it's also going to be a serious drag on the economy for the foreseeable future: households with unemployed men are not exactly engines of economic recovery. " data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

I knew this morning’s jobs report was going to be depressing — and with unemployment rising from 8.5% to 8.9% last month, I was right. But the unemployment rate among adult men is even worse. Here’s the relevant bit of the release:


As you can see, as recently as February, adult men were no more likely to be unemployed than the population as a whole. In the past couple of months, however, a nasty gap has opened up, and it’s widening.

Yes, unemployment is a lagging indicator. But with adult-male unemployment rapidly approaching 10%, it’s also going to be a serious drag on the economy for the foreseeable future: households with unemployed men are not exactly engines of economic recovery.

Incidentally, the other unemployment measure worth keeping an eye on, U6, a broader measure of underemployment, hit 15.8% last month, up from 13.5% in December. So while the headline payrolls number might have fallen less than economists had expected, I can’t really see any green shoots here.


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It’s interesting how the worst case scenario in the “stress test” was 8.9%, which we are at RIGHT NOW. The new worst case should be more like 10.5%; a full 18% higher. Not looking good.

The only reason I’m commenting is because Reuters offered me “toast” as my anti-spam word. Just about sums it all up.

Posted by otto | Report as abusive

….. interesting, my anti-spam word was also TOAST!!

Posted by hector | Report as abusive

I anticipate a certain CNBC anchor (initials of LK) frothing on his show this evening at the new ‘mustard seeds’ of today’s less bad figures. Please…

Posted by Griff | Report as abusive

the transition from consumers spending 101% of income to 95% of income looks like a trend change with enormous implications for new job creation, none of them good.

personally, i think the obsession with the banks has gone overboard: we’re likely to muddle through on that score. now how about if we obsess about how to create jobs instead?

Posted by howard | Report as abusive

And the next question is whether it’s a recovery at all if things level out, meaning “Is the economy sustainable at this level?” I know people like to use the L-shape but that assumes sustainability at this level. My reading is that many, many, many companies in many, many, many industries would need to ratchet down further if this level of demand continues and that would then force further cuts, etc., perhaps but not necessarily in a spiral. My reading is that companies are hoping to ride out this period – especially true for small business – and that this level of activity is not enough to justify those hopes. Seeing that employment among primary wage earners is worse than the face rate doesn’t help at all.

Posted by jonathan | Report as abusive

ummmm, good point Lu….

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

The number is almost double that when you count people that have given up looking for work and those who are underemployed. I wonder what kind of jobs we will create as a nation since we don’t make anything that anyone seems to want to buy. I’m not saying that we can’t, I’m just saying that our heros of industry sort of forgot that the US consumer supports the whole world when they decided to ship jobs overseas and lay people off at home. How exactly did they think the average American consumer was going to make up for a decrease in wages? The solution may be with green techonology, but we are behind the curve on that, since other nations started on that path over 8 years ago. We will need to spend gobs and gobs of money to both catch up and exceed competitors. Right now, I don’t see how we are going to be able to pay for it. I’m not holding my breadth for industry to come through, they haven’t been the most reliable bunch in awhile.

Posted by BB | Report as abusive

Now subtract the jobs created by the government which suck out GDP growth and the real number is significantly worse, however you compute it.

Posted by Thomas Pindelski | Report as abusive

Construction jobs and manual labor went down the tubes during the begginig of this recession. I see more dads putting on the apron and helping around the house. This recession will impact long term views of Gender roles. I see several books for years to come regarding this “mencesion.”

Posted by Martha Sanchez | Report as abusive

If the point of this blog is that men are more unemployed than women, then I think it’s important to remember that most women are still not PAID as much as men for doing the same work and that fact is now forcing male management to face a truth that they’ve known for a while but done everything to avoid admitting out loud. The truth is that women can do ANY job that men can do except create semen. When we can’t lift as much, then we simply work faster and/or smarter to accomplish the same task as a man. Now imagine you’re the manager looking at your books and where you can cut payroll to make it through tough times. On one hand you’ve got a man who’s being paid $15/hr; on the other hand you’ve got a woman who does the same job for only $12/hr. When you take a close look at job performance, the woman may do things different but she’s accomplishing the same amount of work for less money. Who are you going to choose to cut? Therefore, the numbers that Mr. Salmon is talking about only further demonstrate the inequality in the workforce. Hmm.

Posted by Anna | Report as abusive

Obviously you are concerned about the unemployment of white males, because unemployment for minorities is double the unemployment for white males.

If you worked for HR in a large firm and you were worried about the risk of lawsuits (which you should be), who would you layoff? The answer is the white male. The formula is easy.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

As with all statistics, it depends on how you present the information. Minorities do suffer from higher unemployment rates. Women are a cheaper option when looking from a management perspective of getting the same job done.

Also, both of these groups, found on the lower rungs of the employment ladder, are more likely to take a lower paying job – any job – in order to earn income. Those “underemployment” figures will be filled up with many single parents, minorities and women who are desperate to have money coming in.

The whole picture is more complicated than the little bit that was quoted.

Posted by Jo | Report as abusive

The gender gap in unemployment might be rather easy to explain. The fields of highest unemployment are male-dominated fields. Our service-sector economy, employing 15 million people, is dominated by women: nurses, nurses aids, dental hygiene, dental assistants, physical therapy, therapists, school psychologists, etc. These are well-paying jobs, required professional degrees, which are supported in significant part by taxpayer dollars. Manufacturing jobs, roughly 14 million, are being eliminated the the economic downturn. The real problem, as new crime stats suggest, is what to do with unemployed men, who pose a greater risk to society than unemployed women.

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive

I would add to the above comment that women outperform men across almost all educational fields–in admittance and in achievement, meaning the modern young man, on average, is simply less qualified for advanced employment, and is less likely to find employment. College enrollment now is almost 60% female and $40 male.

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive

sorry for mistake $40–>40%

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive

I’m having difficulty understanding the math here. During the month of April, weekly new jobless claims were > 600k each week. This means that 2.4m people lost jobs last month. If the labor report shows only 591k jobs lost, does that mean the other 1.8m people found work during the same month?

Ok I understand that the way the data is collected for these two series is different but still, I find it difficult to reconcile the two numbers! Any explanation for this Felix?

Posted by Donaldo | Report as abusive

Just to correct my previous comment. The same people don’t have to find jobs during the month. But it does seem like 1.8m new jobs were created so that we have a net loss of 591K jobs! I find it hard to believe we’re creating that many new jobs during a recession

Posted by Donaldo | Report as abusive

Does anyone remeber when President Obama said “the party is over”? Realistic thinking says it is over. I look at %20 unemployment as the real bottom. Credulity? Really readers?

Posted by william | Report as abusive

Thank you Donaldo since you asked another question that I have wanted answered. Somehow there is some heavy number manipulation going on.

Posted by william | Report as abusive

Bringing up the U6 stats are important, but you aren’t telling the entire story with them. Why compare the April number to December when you could compare it to March? In March it was at 15.6. So that’s a .2 rise. Compared to the .7 rise from February to March. .9 rise from January to Feb.

You’re being a bit dishonest.

Posted by Derek | Report as abusive

Irrespective of the gender, joblosses hurt everybody. But looks like situation is improving.

The census hiring 60,000 people made it look better than it really was. A radically downsized US auto industry is unfortunately, on the way. Thinking that all those unemployed plant workers can become engineers, writers, physicians, computer programmers & nuclear scientists is a popular fantasy. Once the current charismatic President is out of the White House, a large group of discontented people, concentrated in the Midwest, might spawn a third political party. I’ll even contribute to that effort!

Posted by Bill Simpson in Slidell | Report as abusive