Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unemployment stable in May 2017. More than 600,000 people left labor force.

The labor economy in the US is unchanged in May 2017. It has been stable within a narrow band for the past two years. The national unemployment rate dropped to 4.3%. Wages grew by only 4 cents. The number of unemployed was 6.9 millon down 200k from last month and the number of long-term unemployed was recorded at 1.6 million (up 37K from last month). 

However, the unemployment rate dropped for a bad reason: A record 608,000 people left the labor force. Different racial groups left the labor market at different rates: 534,000 Whites left the labor force while only 67,000 Blacks and 82,000 Hispanic/Latinos left.  And 21,000 Asians joined. Of the 608K that left 367,000 were men and 241,000 were women. 

There were gains in healthcare, business services and food services. Employment revisions were down -66K for the prior two months. Hours worked were the same.

Since May 2015, the national unemployment rate has dropped about one percentage point (from 5.5% to 4.3%).  Blacks have made the largest gain during the period as the Black unemployment fell from 10.2% in May 2015 to 7.5% in May 2017.

The Big Story(s)

The big story is the smooth running of the economy. Thanks to Obama,Yellen and a host of others, plus the natural gas boom, the economy is in great shape. Unemployment is low. Wage inflation is low. We are are in a long-term growth pattern with a rate of about 2% growth for the next 2-3 years.

The second big story is the lack of wage pressure in the economy. Lack of wage growth fuels inequality in our society.  We see no sign of "full employment."

Missing wage inflation is linked to two trends: hidden unemployment and decreased worker bargaining power. Lack of power has led to workers expectations being "whipped" by corporations. Labor has stopped asking for higher wages and feels lucky to have a job (healthcare is a bonus). Employers think the same way and do not feel an pressure to compete for workers based on wages.
The recession of 2007 finalized a huge, on-going reset in employer and employee relations.  We are seeing the end result. 

The third big story is how well the country runs with little guidance. Its true; we have many large, long-term problems that are being ignored. Since the economy running great, we can afford to do so. Large problems such as poverty, jobs, wages, inequality, a shrinking middle class, entitlement costs and healthcare costs can be pushed further down the road.

Finally, the other big story, of course, is the ongoing chaos in Washington. The confusion of the past six months has yielded little action.   We are a progressive blog. We think nothing good can come from the Trump administration however we are getting used to him. We are worried they will get their act together and do some real damage to progressive causes. Thank goodness our economy and our system of government are mostly self correcting. 

The Black Unemployment Rate

The Black unemployment rate dropped to 7.5% from 8.6% last month as 46,000 more people reported to work. The unemployment rate for Black men, 20 and order, was 6.5% while Black women in the same age group were unemployed at a rate of 7.0%.  Black men participate in the labor market at a 68% rate while the participation rate for Black women is 63%. Black teenage unemployment was calculated at 27%. 

The chart below shows the Black unemployment rate and the LFP rate but smoothed out by using a 4 month moving average. 

As is our custom, we calculate the real Black unemployment rate. It was determined to be 11.6% in May. Both the Black unemployment rate and the US U-6 rate declined during the period.   U-6 is the broadest measure of unemployment. U-6 is basically anyone who wants to work and has looked for a job in the past 12 months plus part time people who want full time work.

Business Establishment Payroll Changes

Again, Non Farm Payrolls added 138,000 workers in May 2017. Government employment saw a slight reduction.

There usual categories led the job growth: business services, healthcare and hospitality. A lot of important categories were down.  Construction added 11,000 jobs. 

Just a reminder that the United States is a service economy.    Only 19% of new jobs produce goods (15% if you include government as a service).

Hourly wages for all employees increased by by $0.04 cent in May to $26.22.  Hourly wages are up about 2.5% (1.2% when adjusted for inflation) in the past year. Hourly wages for non-supervisory employees rose by 3 Cents.

The average growth in wages has been below 1% after inflation between 2006 to 2016.

March NFP jobs were revised down from 79K to 50K (-29K). April was revised downward from 211,000 to 174,000 (-37,000). 

ADP reported 253,000 non farm payroll jobs were created.  The jobs were split among small businesses (+83K), medium sized businesses (+113K) and large businesses (+57K).  According to ADP goods producing business increased jobs by +48K while services hired 205K workers. Manufacturing lost 8K jobs.

Paychex small business jobs index was flat at 100.34; a completely neutral value. It's down -0.25% for the year.

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