New Jobless Claims Aren’t As Good As They Look

The Department of Labor announced yesterday that new jobless claims have fallen to 305,000 for the week, a six-year low.  Unfortunately, the new jobless claims figure isn’t as reliable an indicator of labor market trends as it used to be.  It says more about the continued decline in layoffs than it does about a surge in hiring.  The biggest problem in today’s labor market is a weak hiring rate for employers.  So while a lower level of new jobless claims is better than a higher level, I don’t expect this to signal a boom in job creation.

To see why layoffs aren’t the problem, as many workers were laid off in the five years since the Lehman collapse as during the real estate boom of 2003-2007.  In the five years between 2003 and 2007, in the midst of a real estate boom and economic recovery, when the unemployment rate averaged 5.2%, there were 1.86 million layoffs per month, on average.  In the five years since the Lehman collapse in August 2008, including the biggest recession since the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate averaged 8.6%, there were also 1.86 million layoffs per month, on average.  While layoff rates were elevated during the second half of 2008 and all of 2009, over the past three years layoffs have been 8.8% lower than pre-recession levels and continue to decline.

Over the past three years during our tepid economic recovery, only 4.23 million people have been hired per month, on average, compared to 5.1 million people per month in 2003-2007. 870,000 fewer people have been hired each month over the past three years compared to 2003-2007.  This great slowdown in hiring, which represents a decline of 17% compared to the previous economic recovery, is the biggest challenge facing the labor market and the economy.

Unemployment insurance data are less relevant in 2013 because of the narrow focus on relatively recent job losers.  New labor market entrants and re-entrants to the labor force, comprise about half of the unemployed but are ineligible for unemployment insurance.  Longer term unemployed workers and jobless workers who have given up their job search and dropped out of the labor force are also ineligible for UI.  For unemployed new entrants and re-entrants to the labor force, and for the millions of jobless workers who have dropped out of the labor force, a surge in hiring is needed to bring them back to work.  So while there were 3.8% fewer layoffs in the past 12 months compared to one year earlier, the fact that hiring only increased by 1.1% over the same period means that employment rates will remain low until businesses increase the pace of their hiring.

Unemployment insurance data are also less relevant in today’s economy because the fraction of unemployed workers eligible for state unemployment insurance programs is at an all-time low.  The following chart shows the percentage of unemployed workers who are job losers and have been unemployed for 26 weeks or less.  These two conditions are good proxies for the key determinants of eligibility for most state UI programs.* Since 1980, in non-recession years, about 40% of unemployed workers would satisfy these requirements.  During recession years, about 45% of the unemployed are job losers in their first 26 weeks of unemployment.  Over the past 3 and one half years, however, only about one-third of unemployed workers have been relatively recent (26 weeks or less) job losers.


The fraction of jobless workers who are eligible for UI is even smaller.  If one includes workers who have dropped out of the labor force in the past year but are available for work as “jobless”, only 26% of “jobless” workers satisfy the conditions required by most state UI programs.

While new jobless claims data provide some information about the rate at which workers are losing jobs, and whether job losers appear to be finding work before filing for UI benefits, yesterday’s new claims figures must be interpreted carefully.  The labor market of 2013 is very different from the pre-recession labor market.  Layoffs continue to decline but have not coincided with commensurate increases in hiring in a weak recovery.  Most jobless workers are long-term unemployed, new-entrants or re-entrants to the workforce unable to find work, or those who have given up job search altogether and are no longer labor force participants.  Employers have hired 870,000 fewer workers per month over the past three years than they were prior to the recession.  Until hiring levels approach the 5 million hires per month that were common in 2003-2007, job growth will continue to disappoint.  Slightly lower new jobless claims per week is just one small step in the right direction.

*Unemployed workers are eligible for Federal UI benefits if they are unemployed longer than 26 weeks and reside in states where unemployment rates are sufficiently high.  Most state UI programs allow up to 26 weeks of benefits but they need not be the first 26 weeks of a worker’s unemployment spell and benefits are only available for job losers.

Detroit’s Job Creation Problems

Detroit urgently needs job creation.  No American city faces more difficult economic problems than Detroit.  Even seemingly good economic news is misleading.  Detroit’s unemployment rate fell from 27.8% in the summer of 2009 to 16.3% in the most recent jobs report.  However, the apparent decline in unemployment is illusory.  Unemployment dropped because jobless residents either left the city or gave up looking for work; employment in Detroit actually declined by 1.8% between the first five months of 2009 and the first five months of 2013.

Some of Detroit’s economic problems are due to the mass exodus from the city.  Detroit’s population declined by 810,000 (about 54%) since 1970, or the equivalent of the population of Columbus, Ohio, the nation’s 15th largest city.  Enough residents have left so that the sprawling city of Los Angeles has a population density 63% higher than Detroit’s.  So many skilled workers have left Detroit that manufacturing businesses find it difficult to hire qualified workers even as the demand for their products has recovered in the past few years and the unemployment rate is 9 percentage points above the national average.

Detroit is No Longer the Motor City

In 1978 when the “Big Three” automakers had an 80% share of the domestic car market there were over a quarter of a million auto manufacturing jobs in Detroit.  Today, there are fewer than 38,000 auto manufacturing jobs in Detroit and suburban Wayne County, a decline of 85% since 1978.  Thirty five years ago Detroit was the home to one in four auto industry jobs in the U.S.  Today only 4.7% of U.S. auto industry jobs are located in Detroit and suburban Wayne County.  The decline in manufacturing jobs in Detroit is not limited to the auto industry.  Since 1978 there has been an 88% decline in employment in manufacturing industries other than motor vehicles.

A Longer Workweek in Manufacturing

At a time when many economists are concerned that most job creation consists of part-time jobs, the workweek in Detroit is getting longer.  The average length of the workweek in Detroit manufacturing establishments was 48.4 hours per week in 2012, about 6.7 hours longer (16.1%) than the U.S. average for manufacturing establishments.  The following chart shows that the average length of the workweek in Detroit’s manufacturing sector increased by 15.2% between 2003 and 2012, compared to a modest 3.2% increase for the U.S. overall.  (For ease of exposition the length of the workweek has been normalized to 100 in 2003.)


A substantially longer workweek means that during the economic recovery (from 2009 to 2012) about 44% of the increase in labor inputs in Detroit’s manufacturing sector were achieved by a longer workweek instead of job creation.  The following chart illustrates what might have happened had there not been increases in hours worked per employee.  Manufacturing employment in Detroit in 2012 would have been 15.2% higher had the length of the workweek remained constant (at 42 hours per week) from 2003 to 2012.  (Again for ease of exposition total labor inpouts in 2003 have been normalized to 100.)


Do Manufacturing Establishments in Detroit Face a Shortage of Skilled Labor?

There are a number of reasons why the length of the workweek in Detroit increased more substantially than in the remainder of the U.S.  If establishments in Detroit faced more economic uncertainty they may have chosen a longer workweek rather than incurring the costs of hiring additional workers.  If establishments in Detroit faced higher fixed costs of fringe benefits per worker, such as health insurance coverage, they may have also chosen to increase hours per employee instead of hiring more workers.  In addition collectively bargained agreements between manufacturing firms and unions may have specified that workers retained during previous reductions in force would see increased hours per week before new employees could be hired.

The sharp increase in the length of the workweek may also be evidence that manufacturing establishments in Detroit face a shortage of skilled workers.  If businesses find it difficult to attract qualified workers because of the exodus of skilled workers over the past decade, the best way to accommodate labor demand may well be to increase hours per employee instead of creating jobs.


The forecast for job creation in Detroit remains bleak despite the Federal government bailout of domestic auto manufacturers.  Detroit is no longer The Motor City as fewer than 5% of auto industry jobs are located there.  About 44% of the increase in labor inputs in manufacturing in Detroit has occurred due to a longer workweek instead of job creation.  Employers in Detroit are likely relying on a longer workweek rather than more job creation because of the exodus of skilled workers from the metro area as well as uncertainty about Detroit’s economic future.

Williston, North Dakota: Boom Town

Employment is growing at a faster rate in Williston, North Dakota than anywhere else in the U.S.  Williston is located in northwest North Dakota, about 70 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border.  Northwest North Dakota is the center of the Bakken oil boom, which has dwarfed any other energy booms in North Dakota and Montana.  The employment boom in Williston over the past two years is one of the most dramatic since the U.S. Department of Labor began collecting local employment and unemployment data.

Williston is a small city (a micropolitan area according to the Census Bureau) where employment grew modestly from 1990 to 2005 and by 10% per year from 2005 to 2010, despite the global recession.  Growth in Williston really began to take off about two years ago.  The unemployment rate in Williston is 0.7%, or 1/11 of the U.S. unemployment rate.  Over the past two years employment has grown by more than 40% per year which is 26 times faster than in the rest of the U.S. and over 29 times faster than growth in Williston prior to 2005.  To put this into perspective employment in Williston is now increasing by the same number of jobs every four days that used to be created each year from 1990 to 2005.

The following chart shows that employment has doubled in Williston in the past two years.  Between 1990 and 2005 employment grew in Williston at an annual rate of 1.37%.  Over the past two years employment in Williston has grown by 2.86% per month.


There are growing pains associated with the employment boom.  The latest data from the Williston police department indicate that both property crimes and violent crimes have increased substantially in Williston, but roughly in proportion to the increase in employment.  The following charts compare the growth in crimes reported by the Williston Police Department to the growth in employment.



Williston is the quintessential energy boom town.  Employment is growing at an astronomical rate.  Wages are also rising — starting pay for high school graduates now tops $50,000 in the energy boom areas in North Dakota and Montana.  The average weekly wage in North Dakota has risen by 27.1% over the past three years, or 5.2 times faster than in he U.S. overall.  As employment has grown so quickly in such a short time the cost of rental housing has soared and the number of violent and property crimes have increased substantially.  These are just some of the growing pains associated with an economic boom.


In 2009 President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress passed an $800 billion stimulus package that was supposed to mitigate the impact of the recession.  There has been much debate about the effectiveness of the stimulus spending and the cost per job “created or saved.”  Other criticism focused on government’s failure to identify and fund shovel-ready jobs that would have improved and updated our infrastructure.  Much of the stimulus money helped fund state and local government positions for teachers, firefighters and other public employees.  It appears that the stimulus legislation did little, if anything, to stop the decline in certain types of construction employment, most notably street, highway and bridge construction.

Proponents of the stimulus package argue that public investments help foster greater economic growth.  Skeptics argue that projects are funded are based on cronyism and political paybacks rather than priorities for economic growth.  Economists on both sides of the argument should examine employment in private-sector construction industries during the recession and recovery.  Many Keynesian economists lament the fact that employment in state and local government has lagged during the recovery despite the stimulus package.  However, large increases infrastructure spending are not expected to result in big gains in public sector jobs.  Infrastructure investment will instead re-direct resources to private sector government contractors that build and repair the infrastructure.

The following chart shows the changes in quarterly employment in two of the biggest heavy construction industries: construction of utility systems (other than oil and gas pipelines) and construction of streets, highways and bridges.  Employment in both industries has been normalized to 100 as of the first quarter of 1990.  There are fewer employees building and fixing highways and bridges than at any time in the past 20 years.  Employment in street, highway and bridge construction is down 5.3% in the past two years and 18.5% in the past five years, and the share of total employment in this industry is at a record low.  Employment in the construction of utility systems dropped from 2007 through the end of 2009 and this industry has recovered almost 25% of its job losses.  In contrast construction in the booming oil and gas pipeline construction industry is up almost 35% in just two years.  This boom in energy construction is not the result of 2009 stimulus program, however.


Government spending largely redistributes resources through the entitlement system which is why the government budget is a much higher fraction of GDP than the public sector’s share of total employment.  Even when governments devote resources to infrastructure projects, the workers are typically private sector employees of government contractors.  Government spending over the past five years has been primarily on transfer programs and not infrastructure.  This is best seen by examining employment in the heavy construction industries.  Employment in highway and bridge construction is well below pre-recession levels and has even dropped in the past two years.  The situation is somewhat better for employees of firms that build and repair utility systems where about 25% of the job losses during the recession have been reversed.

Job Destruction in the Golden State

Perhaps no state has more protective labor laws than California.  Hourly employees in California are required to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay for hours worked over eight but less than twelve in a day and twice their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of twelve in a day, even if the employee works fewer than 40 hours in the week.  Employers who fail to properly classify workers into hourly and salaried positions and pay appropriate overtime compensation are subject to potential lawsuits and penalties.  Employers are also required to provide meal breaks to hourly employees for shifts in excess of five hours in length and are subject to lawsuits and penalties if meal breaks are not provided, are provided too late in the shift, or if the breaks are too short in length.  In the past two years most retail chains in California have been sued over failure to provide “suitable seating” to cashiers.  According to California’s Industrial Welfare Commission all employers must provide suitable seating to all employees “when the nature of the work reasonable permits the use of seats.”  The unintended consequences of “labor-friendly” laws are that labor services become more expensive and work is then more likely to be outsourced to states and countries with fewer labor regulations and lower labor costs.

One of the results of strict labor laws and regulations is that California has contributed no new private sector jobs to the U.S. economy in the past decade.  This is a dramatic reversal of a trend that started before the Department of Labor began measuring employment by states and areas.  The California economy grew rapidly from the 1950’s through the 1980’s as private sector employment more than tripled and about seven million private sector jobs were created over a forty-year period.  Employment in California continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate than in the rest of the U.S., in the 1990’s.  In the last decade private sector job creation in California came to a grinding halt.

The following chart illustrates decade-by-decade growth rates in private sector employment in California and the rest of the U.S. since 1952.  Employment in California grew much more rapidly than the rest of the U.S. from 1952 through 1982, and slightly more rapidly than the rest of the U.S. from 1982 to 1992.  The slowdown in employment growth in California began in the 1990’s as job growth in other states outpaced growth in the Golden State for the first time in decades.  Private sector employment actually declined slightly in California from 2002 to 2012.

The record of job creation in California over the past two decades is even more lackluster if one looks more closely at employment by sectors of the economy.  For example, it is more difficult to outsource health care services to other states and countries because most health care professionals must be located near their patients.  In fact, the only parts of the private sector that have contributed to job growth in California over the past ten years have been industries in the health care sector.  As the following chart shows, while employment in hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient health care providers grew briskly in California over the past ten years, employment in non-health care industries has dropped by 2.7% since 2002.

There are now fewer manufacturing jobs in California than there were in 1957 when the Dodgers were located in Brooklyn, the Giants played at the Polo Grounds, and California had about one-third as many residents as it does today.  There are many reasons why California employment has been growing slower than in the rest of the U.S. for at least two decades.  High marginal tax rates and more stringent environmental regulations are often cited as factors that raise the cost of doing business in California.  “Labor-friendly” laws and regulations have also likely been responsible for increasing labor costs and encouraging the outsourcing of jobs to other states and countries.

Employment Growth during Presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush

The Welch Consulting Employment Index is 93.3 for August 2012, up 0.8% from August 2011 (seasonally adjusted).  An index value of 93.3 means that full-time equivalent employment (from the BLS household survey) is 6.7% below its level in the base year of 1997, after adjusting for both population growth and changes in the age distribution of the labor force.  The index has fallen over the past five months, it was 94.9 in March.  The index remains weak because part-time employment is higher than it has been historically and employment growth has barely exceeded population growth over the past two years.

The following chart compares employment changes in the first 44 months of the first terms of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  George W. Bush took office when the employment index was 101.8, one of the highest values in the past 15 years, while the index had fallen to 96.9 by the time Barack Obama was inaugurated.   Nonetheless there has been a similar decline in employment during the first three and a half years of their administrations.  Between George W. Bush’s inauguration in January 2001 and August 2004 the employment index fell by 3.4%.  The corresponding change for President Obama’s first term is a 3.7% decline in the employment index between January 2009 and August 2012.

The similarities in the pattern of employment decline during these administrations becomes even more clear if the chart axes are adjusted to account for the differences in the state of the labor market between 2001 and 2009.


The first terms of the Bush and the Obama administrations have been characterized by steady declines in full-time-equivalent employment relative to the growth in the adult population.  The primary difference in the jobs record is that President Bush inherited an unusually strong labor market with a very low unemployment rate and a high rate of full-time equivalent employment. President Obama inherited a labor market that was already declining fairly rapidly.  After 44 months of their presidencies, however, the net percentage change in employment is remarkably similar across administrations.

Technical Note: Full-time equivalent employment equals full-time employment plus one half of part-time employment from the BLS household survey.  The Welch index adjusts for the changing age distribution of the population by fixing the age distribution of adults to the 1997 base year.  The Welch Index adjusts for population growth by fixing total population to its 1997 level.  Seasonal effects are removed in a regression framework using monthly indicator variables.

Why Has Job Growth Been So Slow? Fewer New Businesses

The rate of job creation over the past three years has been disappointing.  The Obama administration touts the fact that private sector employment has increased for 29 straight months.  But since February of 2010, when employment started to rebound, we have added 138,000 jobs per month (an annual growth rate of 1.27%).  Both parties agree that this is insufficient given the depth of the recession and the millions of unemployed, underemployed and discouraged workers in our economy.  An important reason for the disappointing growth in jobs is the slowdown in job creation from start-ups and new establishments.  The U.S. economy would create 2.65 million more jobs per year if new businesses were creating jobs at the same rate as in the 1990’s.

In 2011, for the first time in the 20 years that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has maintained these data, the number of jobs created at new establishments dropped below 5 million.  Job growth from newly formed establishments has declined by 38% since 1998, relative to total private sector employment.  In 2011 jobs created in new establishments accounted for 4.6% of private sector employment compared to 7.4%  of employment in 1998.  The decline in the share of jobs from new establishments has been steady over the past decade as shown by the following graph:

The dearth of start-ups is an important factor in understanding the anemic job growth in this recovery.  If new establishments were being formed at the same rate as in the 1990’s, the U.S. economy would be creating 221,000 more jobs per month (2.65 million more jobs per year).  Job creation would be 160% higher if job gains from new enterprises returned to the rates experienced in the 1990’s.

It is not clear why job growth from new establishments has dropped steadily over the past decade.  It is possible that each new business venture today creates fewer jobs in the U.S. due to outsourcing and technological change.  Regardless of the causes, job growth will not be robust as long as start-ups create fewer and fewer new jobs each year.  Changes in tax policy and regulations to create a business environment amenable for new businesses, that have historically been the engine of job creation, could help reverse this trend.

The Slow Growth in Full-Time Jobs

Full-time employment of adults age 20 to 54 has grown substantially slower than part-time employment during this economic recovery.

  • Part-time employment grew annually by 0.73% from May-July 2010 to May-July 2012.
  • Full-time employment grew annually by 0.22% from May-July 2010 to May-July 2012.
  • The fraction of workers with part-time jobs has remained above 16% since 2009, about 3% higher than the average from 2000-2008.
  • There are about 3.2 million fewer full-time workers than what was typical for the U.S. workforce from 2000 to 2008 (holding constant total employment).

The millions of under-employed adults age 20 to 54 are both a symptom and a cause of the weak economic recovery.

Another indication of the problem of under-employment in this recovery is evident in the BLS Displaced Worker Surveys of 2010 and 2012.  The survey focuses on workers who lost jobs they held for at least three years prior to being displaced.  A “displacement” is a job separation that occurred because:  “a plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work” or the “position or shift was abolished.”  The survey asks people who were displaced in the past three years whether they were re-employed and if so, whether their new job is full-time or part-time.  The 2010 and 2012 Displaced Worker Surveys indicate that an unusually high fraction of re-employed workers have only found part-time work.

The following chart illustrates the fraction of re-employed displaced workers who held only a part-time job in all of the Displaced Worker Surveys from 1996 to 2012.

A comparison across surveys indicates that:

  • More than 15% of workers who had found work after displacement from a longer lasting job were working part-time in surveys that asked about  job losses from 2007 to 2011.
  •  About 10% of workers who had found work after displacement from a longer lasting job were working part-time in surveys that asked about  job losses from 1993 to 2007.
  • Workers displaced since 2007 have been 1.5 times more likely to be re-employed at a part-time job.

The weak economic recovery has resulted in a stubbornly high unemployment rate, discouraged jobless workers from looking for work and caused the labor force participation rate to fall well below pre-recession levels.  There are also several million more adults now working part-time compared to the pre-recession labor market.  BLS surveys indicate that some of these “new” part-time workers were displaced from jobs they held for years prior to the recession of 2007-2009.  Consequently the national unemployment rate of 8.3% substantially understates the degree of underutilization of human capital in our economy.

Public Sector Administration: A Safe Job If You Can Get It

Liberal economists and politicians lament the fact that public sector employment has contracted over the past two years while the economic recovery has sputtered.  The following chart compares the change in private sector and government employment from May 2008 to May 2011, and from May 2008 to May 2012.  Private sector employment fell by 5% between 2008 and 2011 but rebounded enough in the past year to stand 3.3% below its May 2008 level.  Public sector employment fell by much less between 2008 and 2011 but has dropped more in the past year and now stands about 2.3% below its May 2008 level.

Despite the budgetary problems faced by state and local governments, layoffs of teachers, police, and firefighters are generally not politically popular.  Advocates of more government spending often equate fiscal restraint with layoffs of educators and first responders.  But the 2.3% decline in government employment between 2008 and 2012 includes a wide variety of public sector jobs.

Have cutbacks in state and local government spending caused substantial declines in the employment of teachers, police and firefighters?  The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program provides annual employment counts and measures of the pay distribution by detailed occupation for nearly all nonfarm workers, public or private, who aren’t self employed.  The OES data are reported for May of each year and the most recent data are for 2011.  The OES can be used to measure the change in employment from 2008 to 2011 in key jobs, such as educators and first responders, that are primarily found in the public sector.  (For example, about 90% of elementary and secondary school students attend public schools and about 75% of college students attend public institutions so changes in the employment of educators from 2008 to 2011 are likely to be dominated by government budget cuts.)  Unfortunately the OES data can’t be separated by government and private sector, so the data are less informative for identifying government reductions in jobs that are primarily found in the private sector (e.g. clerical workers).

The following chart indicates that the employment of elementary and secondary school teachers fell slightly while the employment of post-secondary teachers grew by over 5% from 2008 to 2011.  The employment of school administrators grew by 1.7% for elementary and secondary schools and by 16.6% for colleges and universities.

The OES data can also be used to measure the change in employment of police, firefighters, and their supervisors.  The following chart shows that between 2008 and 2011 the employment of police and firefighters increased by less than 2% while the employment of their supervisors grew more than six times faster or by more than 9%.

Government spending advocates criticize fiscal restraint by asserting that teachers, police, and firefighters will lose their jobs if government spending decreases (as a fraction of GDP).  The OES data indicates that while employment in the private sector fell by more than 5% from 2008 to 2011, employment in some government administrative positions grew briskly.  From 2008 to 2011 the employment of police, firefighters and elementary and secondary school administrators increased slightly and teacher employment fell by only 0.4%, but the employment of police and fire supervisors increased by over 9% and the employment of administrators in higher education grew by more than 16%.

The public’s appetite for fiscal restraint is likely to depend on their understanding of which public service jobs are being trimmed and which are growing.  It is unlikely that voters support substantial increases in the employment of university administrators, with an average annual salary of over $97,000, and police supervisors, with an average annual salary of over $82,000, while the number of classroom teachers declined and the number of patrolmen barely increased.  But this is exactly what happened between 2008 and 2011.

The Long Road Back to Full Employment

It will take years of vigorous sustained economic growth to restore the U.S. labor market to anything close to “full employment”.  Consider the case of young adults age 20-24.  The unemployment rate for this age group has fallen from 15% to 12.9% over the past three years.  Nonetheless, the labor market for young adults is anything but healthy.  The labor force participation rate for adults age 20-24 has fallen from 73.4% to 70.8% since May 2009 because of the weak recovery.  Although there are 264,000 fewer unemployed workers age 20-24 than there were three years ago, there are also 566,000 fewer labor force participants than if the participation rate had remained steady.

As I have written in a previous post to this blog, there is an even more dramatic decline in the rate at which young adults are finding full-time work.  In May, 2000 54.3% of adults age 20-24 were employed in full-time jobs, but last month only 37.1% of adults age 20-24 were employed full-time.  If today’s labor market was comparable to 2000 full-time employment of adults age 20-24 would be higher by 3.75 million.  Some of these 3.75 million workers are currently working part-time while others are unemployed, and still more have left the labor force.

Young adults aren’t the only workers dropping out of the labor force or settling for a part-time job.  When a vigorous economic recovery finally arrives there will be millions of underemployed and unemployed workers and labor force drop-outs looking for full-time jobs.  Given the slack in the labor market and the rate of population growth, two years of employment growth of at least 500,000 full-time jobs per month would be required to restore the participation rate, the employment to population ratio, and the fraction of workers in full-time jobs to pre-recession levels.  In other words 24 straight months of growth about five times faster than what we have seen of late is needed to restore full employment.

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