Gallup: Workforce still declining

It’s almost certain that we won’t get the official Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for September tomorrow as scheduled, as BLS gets shut down as part of the non-essential federal government funding cut-off.  That leaves us with yesterday’s wan ADP private-sector report, today’s Labor Department weekly report on initial jobless claims, and Gallup.  The Labor report shows little change over the last few weeks, with the 308,000 new claims remaining near the five-year low:


The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week but remained at pre-recession levels, a signal of growing strength in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 308,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The data could provide some of the strongest guidance this week on the health of the U.S.economy as a partial government shutdown delays the release of economic data, including the monthly employment report which was scheduled to be released on Friday.

New jobless claims have been falling for much of this year and for weeks there have been fewer of them than even before the 2007-09 recession began, a signal that the long cycle of elevated layoffs had ended.

Don’t break out the bubbly yet. The benchmarks of this series have at least an indirect relation to the overall workforce metrics.  As the workforce declines, the movement downward in this series gets less reflective of job-market strength, for obvious reasons.  Gallup, which uses similar methodology as the BLS (unlike ADP), sees a continuing fall in September for workforce participation that BLS shows at 35-year record lows:

The U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate (P2P), as measured by Gallup, fell slightly to 43.5% in September, from 43.7% in August. P2P has declined more than a percentage point from the 45.1% found in September 2012. …

Because of seasonal fluctuations, year-over-year comparisons are helpful in evaluating whether monthly changes are due to seasonal hiring patterns or true growth (or deterioration) in the percentage of people working full time for an employer. While the P2P rate for September is down from the same month last year, it is similar to what Gallup found in September 2011 and 2010 — meaning there has been essentially no growth in full-time employment for an employer since at least 2010, the first year Gallup polled on this measure.

The employment situation improved in the late summer and early fall of 2012, with the P2P rate in August through October increasing by more than one point over the same months in 2011. That momentum slowed in the winter, and the P2P rate has stayed the same or slightly declined for eight out of nine months this year, compared with the same months in 2012.

Although P2P is down, the percentage of Americans working full time for themselves has gone up slightly, but this does not account for all of the year-over-year decline in P2P. Full-time self-employment is at 5.3% in September, up from 5.1% in August and 5.0% in September 2012.


Gallup’s equivalent of U-3 unemployment rates, both unadjusted and adjusted, returned roughly to where they were in July after a big upward spike in August. The adjusted rate is at 7.9%, higher than all but two months in 2013.  Underemployment drifted down to 17.1%, the best reading in 2013, but far above the 15.9% reading in the fall of 2012.  Plus, part-time work is on the rise:

The percentage of part-time workers wanting full-time work was 9.4% in September, up from 8.7% in August and from 8.6% last September. This suggests the decline in the unemployment rate is actually due to more Americans taking part-time jobs rather than gaining the full-time employment they want.

The last Gallup chart shows the year-on-year problem in the job markets. The percentage of those employed full time for an employer dropped from 45.1% to 43.5%, while full-time self-employment only rose 0.3% in the same period. Workforce participation dropped form 68.2% to 67%.  Those forced to work part-time rose from 8.6% to 9.4%, while the underemployment rate rose 0.6%.

In other words, this is a job market in decline, more than four years after the technical recovery failed to return most of those made jobless in the Great Recession.

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