Thursday, July 2, 2009

How's That Working For You: June 2009

Pictures will have to wait until tomorrow when my data source should be updated. Until then my main comment is that once again the labor force number is totally whack; the BLS claims it declined by 144K last month. That's why U-3 only increased by 0.1pp despite a loss of 467K jobs.

Update: graphs have arrived.

The red line remains the key one in this graph. The ratio is still going down, but I don't think panic is warranted until it hits 44% or so. Right now it is at 45.7%.

Still nothing good here.

This graph shows how the workforce number really jumps around.

This shows the non-adjusted change in hourly wages. For the all employees line, supervisory, managerial, and executive employees are excluded, along with the self-employed. You can see that the average increase in wages over the past 5 years has been less than the average increase in GDP, meaning more of all income either accrued to people outside the non-supervisory group or came from non-wage sources.

The question raised by this graph is about the cause of the secular downtrend in average weekly hours. Has part-time work been forced on people so they don't qualify for benefits, or has it been requested by employees who are looking for more family-friendly hours?

Some people have gotten slightly hysterical about the MoM change in wages, which was zero. Concern is warranted, but MoM numbers always jump around. The number should be watched for a few more months before the alarm is sounded. Concern over weekly hours is definitely premature. More part-time employment spreads the harm around more, but lessens it for each affected person. IMHO it's better for the country for the harm to be spread around because the country has such a weak safety net.

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