We have all heard the happy talk since the July jobs report rolled out last week. Job growth beat expectations! (As if expectations have been even halfway right for the last six years). There were 288,000 new jobs created in June. Unemployment fell to its lowest rate since the recession began, and now stands at 6.1%. Additionally, both the April and May employment growth numbers were revised up. This is all good as far as it goes, which is not very far at all. Those are the trees, and here’s the forest.
Did you know that part-time job growth jumped by 1 million in June? Part-time job growth continues to be far more prolific than full-time job growth. Indeed, the hallmark of the job recovery from the Great Recession has been the advent of the shift from full-time work to part-time work. We now have more than 27 million people working in part-time jobs. The characteristics of the part-time work as well as the demographics of that workforce have changed dramatically since 2007. Time was when this workforce was young, paid minimum wage (or near) and worked the number of hours befitting students (20 or less). Adults now dominate the part-time force, work more hours, (averaging scant 30 hours per week; gee, why could that be?) and make a few dollars more per hour more than minimum wage. Want confirmation? Check out stagnated wage growth and staggering youth unemployment numbers (especially black youth).
The change in unemployment was due, in the main, to the expiration of extended federal unemployment compensation eligibility (Congressional Republicans refused to fund another extension). While some of these folks found jobs, it’s a good bet many did not. No worries. Once you fall off the unemployment rolls the government no longer considers you unemployed!
The best measurement of the idled workers is the labor participation rate that looks at the adult working age population compared to the actual adult working population. That number is grim; only 62.8% of that population is engaged in work. I call that pathetic.
We should not forget the exploding Social Security Disability program. June saw its rolls expand to 11 million. I’ll spare you the Google search; that number is greater than the population of Greece. The program is growing at a clip of 1 million new beneficiaries per year and has morphed into the nation’s defacto long-term welfare program.
Well, at least our productivity numbers were good, right? Not if we are talking Q1 numbers bleeding red. If one more person tells me it snowed a lot this winter I am going to scream. The winter of ’78 was far more disruptive than this one and we didn’t tank the GDP this bad then.
Not all measurements are created equal, and I fear far too much attention is being paid to the wrong ones. They may have been great for who we once were but are lousy for who we are now.