Improvements in Labor Force Slowing Dramatically

OK, I’m back from fishing in the north woods and there’s much to catch up on.  I’ll begin with Friday’s release of the July employment report.  It was a little anemic, with only 215,000 jobs added (according the survey of businesses).  It was down from June, which was down from May.  Worse (but not included in the headline figures), the “employment level” (a figure taken from the household survey) says that employment only grew by 101,000 in July.  That leaves per capita employment essentially unchanged since February.  Here’s the chart:  Per Capita Employment.

The growth in employment level was barely sufficient to keep pace with the growth in the labor force.  As a result, unemployment remained unchanged in July at 5.3%.  However, a more accurate reading of unemployment – one that has done an honest accounting of the growth in the labor force (almost all of which is driven by immigration) – would have the unemployment rate at 8.8%.

The number of unemployed Americans seems to have leveled off after dropping some since the “Great Recession.”  It hasn’t changed significantly since January.  Here’s the chart:  Unemployed Americans.

And to illustrate just how much improvements in the labor market have slowed recently, consider this:  during the first six months since July of last year, employment level grew by an average of 300,000 jobs per month.  But in the most recent six months, ending with July, that growth has slowed to an average of 107,000 per month.  Take away January and the growth slowed to 90,000 per month in the most recent five months.  That’s less than needed to keep pace with growth in the labor force and is a good indication that unemployment, truth be told, is actually beginning to rise slowly again.

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