America’s jobless recovery
Here are a few opinions about the jump in the unemployment rate that caught my eye:
1) Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
The October unemployment rate is still below the 10.8 percent peak reached in December of 1982, but the workforce is considerably older now and in age cohorts where workers are less likely to be unemployed. If the workforce had the same age distribution as in 1982 but current unemployment rates for each age cohort, then the unemployment rate would be more than a percentage point higher. The 10.7 percent unemployment rate for men is 0.6 percentage points higher than the 10.1 percent peak in 1982. This is consistent with the massive job loss in construction and manufacturing.
In all likelihood, the economy will continue to shed jobs, at least through the rest of the 2009 and probably into the first months of 2010. The unemployment rate will probably not peak until the spring of next year, at close to 11.0 percent.
2) Michael Feroli, JPMorgan
Even worse than this were the figures reported in the household survey of employment. The unemployment rate smashed through the psychologically significant 10% level to hit 10.2% in October. This came even as the labor force participation rate fell another 0.1% last month to fall to 65.1%. Normally, a falling participation rate would be expected to temper any increase in the unemployment rate, as discouraged workers who drop out of the labor force no longer count as officially unemployed. Moreover, the measure of employment in the household survey fell 589,000 in October and has been significantly weaker than the establishment survey measure over each of the prior three months.
Among the other details in the household survey, the unemployment rate for college-educated persons has actually been roughly stable since June at 4.7%, while less-educated groups have seen a big move up. The male unemployment rate hit a post-war high of 11.4% last month, breaking the previous record of 11.2% in December of 1982. . According to the CPS labor force flow data, only 15% of unemployed persons found a job last month, a new low.
The 190k payroll drop, combined with the 91k in upward back-revisions, slightly outpaced assumptions. Yet, the workweek failed to rise from its 33.0 cycle-low, hence leaving a 0.2% drop in hours-worked that will weigh on Q4 GDP estimates, as will the hefty jobless rate surge to 10.2% that shattered the 10% psychological barrier. The household survey also revealed a sobering 589k drop in household employment, while hourly earnings failed to provide any low inflation solace, with a 0.3% gain.