201807.06
1
5

Much More Than Payrolls

There are two very big problems with these constant, increasingly shrill labor market anecdotes. The first is that they don’t end up meaning what the tellers think they do. The purpose of these stories is clear enough, it’s just that the logic doesn’t work in the end. Here’s another example from the Wall Street Journal…

201806.01
3
7

The Unemployment Rate Is Useless, But That Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Useful

At a campaign rally in New Mexico in May 2016, Presidential Candidate Donald Trump returned to one of his favorite themes. It was a package deal. He first talked about NAFTA and what he considered the negative effects the trade agreement had had on American workers. That easily segued into what had by then become…

201805.04
3
6

Three Point Nine, Still No Boundary For Sanity

For all its tortured economic history since 1989, Japan has never really had an unemployment problem. Going by its unemployment rate alone, conditions don’t ever appear to be all that out of line. At its worst, in both the dot-com recession as well as Japan’s experience during the Great “Recession”, the highest it ever got…

201804.13
4
8

There Aren’t Two Labor Markets

Allusions to a labor shortage continue to be ubiquitous. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published yet another such story under the headline Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People. Ostensibly about the experiences of companies trying to hire in the one state, the implication was clear enough. If Iowa, IOWA, has…

201804.06
4
6

Payroll Time

Never get hung up on one payroll report, good or bad. The Establishment Survey series, seasonally-adjusted and statistically smoothed as much as humanly possible, is still incredibly noisy. It didn’t used to be this way, which is an important clue that “something” has changed. The lack of consistency in the monthly measurement is as the…

201803.09 5

The Return of The Perfect Payrolls

Over the past two days, Chinese exports exploded, US payrolls bested 300k, and China’s CPI recorded the hottest inflation in 5 years. Globally synchronized growth? It’s times like these where remembering how nothing goes in a straight line helps settle and ground interpretations. In thinking that way already, you are never surprised when there are…

201802.02
7
1

Where’s The Inflation? Average Weekly Earnings Flat, Focus on 200k Instead Which Isn’t Even A Good Number

The unemployment rate, I’m sorry to report, didn’t tumble all the way to zero. Pity. It did stay at 4.1% for the fourth straight month. Because of that, wage pressures should be exploding right now. That seems to be the verdict in markets this morning, a rumble of inflation shot right through everything at the…

201801.10
3
2

Which One Really Belonged On Yellen’s Dashboard?

The latest JOLTS survey from the BLS suggests nothing much has changed from that particular view of the labor market. The level of estimated Job Openings (JO) while down slightly over the last few months remains exceedingly high. By contrast, the rate of monthly Hires (HI) continues to be subdued, if at the high end…

201801.05
3
3

The Reluctant Labor Force Is Reluctant For A Reason (and it’s not booming growth)

In 2017, the BLS estimates that just 861k Americans were added to the official labor force, the denominator, of course, for the unemployment rate. That’s out of an increase of 1.4 million in the Civilian Non-Institutional Population, the overall prospective pool of workers. Both of those rises were about half the rate experienced in 2016….

201801.05
2
4

Payrolls Hit The Trifecta of Awful

Last year was an objectively bad year for American workers. The latest payroll figures from the BLS for December 2017 fill out what was an awful picture. According to its Establishment Survey, the data that’s taken as the definitive source on the US labor market, total payrolls expanded by 2.055 million in 2017. That annual…