Financial Review

Financial Review for Friday, May 02, 2014 – April Jobs Report

April Jobs Report
by Sinclair Noe
DOW – 45 = 16,512
SPX – 2 = 1881
NAS – 3 = 4123
10 YR YLD – .01 = 2.59%
OIL + .57 = 99.99
GOLD + 15.70 = 1301.60
SILV + .44 = 19.56
Today is another Jobs Report Friday. We will go into quite a bit of detail here because really, most everything we talk about in regard to economics begins with work and jobs. It is my hope that you will join us here on the first Friday of each month to get your comprehensive, fact based coverage of the jobs report.
Last month the economy added 288,000 net new jobs, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3%. April marked the biggest monthly gain in jobs since January 2012, when the economy added 360,000 jobs. Employment gains for February and March were revised higher by a combined 36,000; that raised the monthly average to 214,000 jobs a month since the start of the year. Through the first 4 months of 2014, the economy has added 857,000 payroll jobs, slightly better than the first 4 months of 2013, despite the harsh winter this year.
In the current 58 month expansion, employers have added more than 200,000 jobs per month in 38% of the months. Current job creation performance is stronger than it was in the business-cycle expansion that occurred during the recovery in the early 2000s, even when a real estate construction bubble fueled growth.  Today’s job creation pace lags well behind previous recent economic recoveries, such as 1970, or 1975 that saw job creation above 200,000 in about 60% of months. Needless to say, 200,000 jobs a month means a lot less today with a population that is more than 100 million people larger than it was in 1970. Total employment is now only 113,000 below the previous peak, so we should top that next month; however, the overall population has increased in the past 6 years, so there are still millions of people without jobs.
The report came in far above expectations. The consensus estimates called for 210,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate inching down to 6.6%, however there was a wide range of estimates.
The drop in the unemployment rate to 6.3% was the biggest monthly drop in 31 years and the unemployment rate is at the lowest level since 2008, but the drop in the headline rate was for the wrong reasons; the participation rate declined to 62.8% from 63.2%, meaning the labor pool fell by 806,000 workers. The unemployment rate is measured against a labor pool of people who are considered actively looking for work or working. When someone stops looking for work, they stop being counted, although it doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t like work.
There are 2 major reasons why the participation rate has dropped: the first reason is demographics, and the second is the economic downturn.
Looking at demographics, the baby boomers are retiring in massive numbers, and not always voluntarily. However, many boomers are re-entering the workforce in a stealthy manner; the highest rate of entrepreneurship activity belongs to the 55-64 age group. It turns out the recession spurred new-business formation. In a “necessity is the mother of invention” scenario, it appears that many people who lost jobs started their own businesses. Of course, it might take some time for a new venture to be profitable and in the meantime, those people might not be counted as actively seeking jobs.
Meanwhile, younger people are staying in school, either going back to school for training or re-training, or dragging out school because of the high cost of education. An interesting point here is that unemployment for young adults age 20-24 dropped from 12.2% to 10.6% in April. Millennials getting jobs; or dropping out of workforce. We don’t know for certain, but one possible explanation is that graduates from the Class of 2013, that have been biding their time looking for a job or just unable to find a job, suddenly got very serious about taking any kind of job as the Class of 2014 prepares to enter the workforce.
Another age group we watch is the 25 to 54 year olds; they’re in their prime working years, too young to retire and unlikely to be in school. The 25 to 54 participation rate declined in April to 80.8% from 81.2% in March, and the 25 to 54 employment population ratio decreased to 76.5% from 76.7%. The participation rate for this age group should increase as the economy improves.
The other reason is the economic downturn, many people lost jobs and have had a very difficult time finding work, driving long term unemployment to unacceptable levels. The recent loss of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed is another way in which people fell from the ranks; in order to receive unemployment benefits, one has to actively look for work. As the benefits were cut, people still unemployed were cut from the ranks. Extended benefits were cut off beginning in late December. If the expiration of benefits was causing hundreds of thousands of people to drop out of the labor force, it should have showed up in the data in January, or February. It didn’t. Maybe the unemployment rate fell because of 806k drop in labor force, a lagged effect from expiration of unemployment insurance, or maybe there is just some statistical noise. We won’t know for sure until we see a few more months data.
What’s also odd about the decline in the labor force is how it happened. The number of so-called re-entrants, unemployed workers who have started looking for jobs again, fell by 417,000. That’s the biggest drop since the government began keeping records in 1967.  And new entrants into the labor force, such as graduates or immigrants, fell by 126,000. That’s the biggest decline in more than five years. Put another way, two-thirds of the drop in the labor force stemmed from people choosing not to enter in the first place. Normally a decline takes place when workers exit the labor force.
According to the BLS, there are 3.452 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job. This was down from 3.739 in March. This is trending down, but is still very high. And it does not mean that 300,000 long term unemployed workers found jobs; they just stopped being counted.
And there is still quite a bit of slack in the labor market, with approximately 7.5 million workers employed part-time for economic reasons; people who have had their hours cut back or people working part-time because they can’t find full-time work. When you add in those under-utilized workers, you get a different measurement known as U-6, which dropped to 12.3% from 12.7% in March. The number of people holding multiple jobs jumped by 133,000 from April 2013 to April 2014. Women almost entirely led this statistic, with the number of employed single mothers increased 1.4% over the past year.
Hiring was widespread and it doesn’t look like there was any one industry or sector that had an unusual jump. Professional services added 75,000 jobs, but about one-third were temporary positions. Employment and temporary help services added 28,000 jobs. Retailers added 35,000 jobs, bars and restaurants added 33,000 and the construction industry hired 32,000 workers. Industries where minimum-wage employment is most prevalent in the economy, accounted for 40% of total new private-sector job creation in April, excluding health care. Manufacturers generated 12,000 jobs, but this was disappointing in light of recent economic data pointing to increased manufacturing activity; yesterday, the ISM reported it manufacturing index had increased to 54.9 last month, up from 53.7 in March. Government also added 15,000 jobs, with state and local governments adding 18,000 jobs and federal cutting 3,000 positions.
Average hourly wages were unchanged at $24.31, reducing the year-over-year gain to just 1.9%. Consumer spending has been outpacing income growth, resulting in low saving rates, meaning workers have less discretionary funds, meaning a dwindling likelihood they will go out and spend at an increasing rate. Paychecks have actually become leaner since the recession officially ended. Real median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers during the first three months of this year were down 3% from the end of the recession.
Looking at the types of jobs making up employment also provides a cause for concern. Among 13 industries that make up total US private-sector employment, the 5 with the lowest nominal average weekly earnings represented about 52% of private-sector employment gains over the past year. Leisure and hospitality employment showed the strongest growth among low-earning industries, added 412,000 jobs over the year through April, representing about 17% of total private-sector job gains.
Middle-earning industries, professional and business services, construction and manufacturing, represented about 40% of annual job gains. While higher-earning industries made up about 8% of added employment. Among the five industries with the highest weekly earnings, private-sector employers added about 194,000 of these jobs over the past year. Longer-term trends show lopsided jobs growth, with lower-wage employment ramping up in recent years. During the recession, lower-wage industries made up 22% of job losses. But over the past four years, these jobs made up 44% of employment growth, according to a recently released report from the National Employment Law Project. One indication that workers aren’t particularly confident is that quitting is below pre-recession levels, signaling that many workers are unwilling to trade some job stability and security to advance their careers.

Today’s jobs report was good, one of the best months we’ve seen in a long time, and we have a 58 month trend of job gains, which is a heck of a lot better than bleeding jobs, but the trend is still not strong enough. Nearly five years since the economy began expanding, the labor market continues improving, but at a frustrating pace for the 10 million unemployed workers and 3 million people not counted as unemployed who still currently want a job. Ongoing elevated unemployment is not only a serious drag for those families enduring it, but it will continue to drag on the overall economy until lawmakers get serious about full employment and creating quality jobs that deepen and secure the middle class. 
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