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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Amazing Math from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics release, the UE (unemployment) rate fell to 5.5% as of February.  The last time the UE rate was this low was May of 2008.

What I’m fascinated by is the fact that the US population grew from February 2008 to February 2015 by 16.8 million persons (counting all permanent residents, legal or "otherwise"), or a 5.5% increase in total population, and on a net basis, not a single one of those 16.8 million persons got a FT (full time) job…while a net 2.7 million were lucky enough to get a (or multiple) PT (part time) job.

This means that 14.3 million persons, or 4.4% of the current US population, were added without a single job among them (chart below).  This makes for fascinating math when a 4.4% increase of the total US population without jobs can nearly halve the UE rate down to 5.5%, equal to 2008’s UE rates?!?Source; Bureau of Labor Statistics
The recent BLS data are considered "strong employment reports" and are taken as such booming harbingers of economic accomplishment that the Federal Reserve feels rates need to begin their long awaited hikes.

Just to avoid some confusion on this 16.8 million population growth…this does not mean there was a baby boom over this period…quite the opposite as a flat birth rate has been offset by an even faster declining death rate (the baby boom and older generations are living much longer than previous generations…thus the pig through the python population growth).  In other words, there are no more babies now than a decade ago...there are far more 55+ year olds as that is the segment of the population that is growing.

And just to make sure this isn’t cherry picking data…below is non-seasonally adjusted raw data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics back to ’08 showing rising PT jobs and declining FT jobs.
Source; Bureau of Labor Statistics
To add perspective we back it up to ’00…and note that over the entire period the US created 7.6 million net new FT jobs and (4 million net PT jobs).  But not a single net FT job since prior to Feb ’08.Source; Bureau of Labor Statistics
I’m pretty confident to say that the stagnant household income data is simply noting the loss of higher quality FT jobs with benefits being replaced with lower quality, lower hour, little to no benefits PT jobs.

I’m sure economists will try to explain away the above raw data as the demographic shifts of retiring baby boomers…but that old chestnut isn’t exactly supported by the data (below).  Population growth and jobs growth since ‘07 is clearly in the 55+ year old segment (+17 million population, +7 million employees) while the 25-54 year old working core is shrinking (-1 million population and even faster declines in employment of -5 million).
Source; Bureau of Labor Statistics
The chart below highlights the substitution of debt creation for the breakdown of jobs creation (and note the unwillingness to tax ourselves now versus willingness to indebt our future generations).Source; BLS, Treasury, Federal Reserve
And below you can see the impact of the falling 25-54 year old segment from '07 onward…resulting in declining mortgage debt, oil consumption, and general economic activity...and the substitution of debt in place of growth.

Source; Treasury, EIA, BLS, Federal Reserve
So you decide, strong jobs data, out and out propaganda, or something in between!?!


  1. Very impressive, thanks for your hard work!
    And if I may point out the following, It is a fact that not all jobs are created equal, they vary in pay, hours worked, responsibility, how hard someone works, and much much more. Often job numbers and statistics fail to make this clear and reflect a poor picture of the true employment landscape. A big discrepancy exist between government and private sector jobs and the same might be said about union and non-union jobs.
    In all reality creating jobs in a mature market should be required to pass a certain "taste" test. Not only should we look at things like pay and hours worked, but is the employer profitable making the job more than just temporary. The article below looks deeper into what kind of jobs society must create for a recovery to be sustainable.

  2. Very nice article. I saw it on ZeroHedge. I'm not surprised. Smoke and mirrors do not make ivory towers, except in the imagination.

  3. Can you provide links to the data? I like a lot of your conclusions, but I'd like to play with the data as well.

    1. Hey there...glad folks are reading and thinking.

      As far as links...I take all my data from many sources (all the above have the sources called out) but I download all raw data and create my own charts and cross correlations...easiest way to access the data is the FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data). So much data it can be really overwhelming but the FRED has data inputs from nearly everything. Try the search box in the upper right for whatever data you are interested in. Cheers...Chris

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