Friday, April 6, 2012

Jobs report

Ok.  Doing an econ blog I have to comment on the new unemployment numbers, so that if my read of them is true I can brag endlessly about it, and if it is not other people can make fun of me.  Fortunately, no one reads this blog right now, so the odds are in my favor.

The unemployment numbers came out today.  Tomorrow's headlines will all be dismal; job growth was way smaller than expected, with 120K new jobs instead of the expected 205K.  So my first comment is: don't panic.  The report is not as great as we wanted, but it's not horrible either.  You can go here for a really good report, in depth from Tim Duy if you want to---in fact you can do that anytime new official data comes out.   He's a good first read on all of that.

But one number kind of jumped out at me, and it was good.

I keep saying things like "several years ago I panicked at things I saw" etc. etc...well, one of the things I saw, even before the crazy run-up of excess reserves at the Fed, was this: 

I took this from Tim Duy's blog today.   It's a chart of people who are employed part-time "for economic reasons"---meaning because they want to work full time but can't find a full time job.  These people are counted as employed in the unemployment data.  No, I don't look this number up every month.  Someone on a blog I was reading in 2008 mentioned that it was weirdly high, and so I looked it up out of curiosity.  That was about halfway up that steep climb toward the end.  Take a quick peek back along that blue line.  It goes to 1980 or so, but you can see there are no climbs as steep or as high as that anywhere.   I followed this statistic back as far as there were numbers.  As long as this statistic has been kept, there has been nothing like the huge leap in 2007-2008.  When I looked at that, I knew we were in very scary territory.

But last month that number fell by 447,000.  That's the last part of the blue line, the down part.  It's coming down fast.  And this doesn't show up in the overall employment numbers.  This stat means that the number of part time jobs fell by that amount, and the number of full time jobs grew by that amount.  And that's good.

Now, here's the usual disclaimer: it's just one month, these numbers are pretty crude first-cut estimates and will be revised as new data is available, and anyway one month isn't a trend, only a trend is a trend.  But my take on this months crude first cut is: it's not as good as we wanted, but not all bad either.

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