Labor secretary on super-low participation rate: Eh, these things bounce around, you know
posted at 12:41 pm on May 2, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
As promised, the casual downplaying-the-downsides/overplaying-the-upsides reaction from Labor Secretary Tom Perez upon being queried, “The participation rate down by 0.4 percentage points, lowest it’s been since 1978 — I mean, c’mon, what is going on here?” Via the WFB:
Look at the participation rates over the last few months, and, they bounce up, they bounced down. What I saw about last month’s numbers is that the number of discouraged workers did not go up. And what we usually see this time of year is that seasonal workers are preparing to enter the workforce, and what we saw last month is that they may not have prepared to enter then. And so, I’m going to be watching this number carefully next month, as I do every month, but this is the household survey, and the participation rates have been bouncing up and down over the last six months, and we’ll certainly be monitoring that. But, you look at the payroll survey and you see 288,000 jobs and you see the adjustments from last month. You know, the economy is clearly moving in the right direction and we want to continue to pick up the pace and have more months where we’re seeing almost 300,000 jobs being created, which we almost saw last month.
“What I saw about last month’s numbers is that the number of discouraged workers did not go up.” Well, I guess we can go ahead and break out the bubbly, ya’ll, ’cause this economy is scootin’ right along!
Or not. Via Neil Irwin:
A dynamic that seemed — maybe, possibly — to be taking shape for 2014 was that of some of the millions of people who had given up on even looking for a job during the recession and the slow recovery were finally returning. That trend might have acted as a floor underneath the overall unemployment rate. People returning to the work force might not find a job immediately, joining the rolls of the unemployed, but it would be good news for the long-term prosperity of the American economy.
The details of the April job report, though, threw serious cold water on that proposition. The number of people in the labor force fell by a whopping 806,000, wiping out the February and March gains and a bit of January as well. …
And the number of people reporting they were unemployed fell by 733,000, which sounds good on its surface, but paired with the similar-sized decline in the labor force points to job seekers giving up looking rather than finding new employment.