Friday, November 5, 2010

Finally: Decent news on the unemployment front

Before departing on an expensive, 12-day trip to Asia, El Presidente trumpeted today’s release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation Summary.  He noted the 159,000 increase in private sector payrolls, but skipped over the fact that the unemployment rate is stuck at 9.6%, basically where it’s been since spring:

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in October, and theunemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau ofLabor Statistics reported today. Since December 2009, nonfarm payrollemployment has risen by 874,000.

Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons, at 14.8 million, was little changedin October. The unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent and hasbeen essentially unchanged since May. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men(9.7 percent), adult women (8.1 percent), teenagers (27.1 percent),whites (8.8 percent), blacks (15.7 percent), and Hispanics (12.6 per-cent) showed little change in October. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.1 percent, not seasonally adjusted.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks andover) was about unchanged over the month at 6.2 million. In October,41.8 percent of unemployed persons had been jobless for 27 weeks ormore. (See table A-12.)

Both the civilian labor force participation rate, at 64.5 percent, andthe employment-population ratio, at 58.3 percent, edged down over themonth.

Population growth adds about 100,000 working age adults to the labor force each month.  However, continued advancement in technology and worker productivity means that the economy needs to add 125,000 new jobs to maintain pace with population, given the same level of output. In other words, month-to-month, it takes 125,000 new jobs to reduce unemployment, even though only 100,000 new job seekers enter the marketplace due to advancing technology, shifts in productivity and emigration of some jobs.

October is only the second month in 2010 that non-farm payrolls exceeded that number, and the margin of 34,000 is not much.  It would take the better part of a decade to work down the existing “labor inventory” of jobs lost since Obama and the 111th Congress took office. So, while today’s release was good news, the overall performance of Democrats on the economy, as told by the unemployment picture—is dismal.