Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Un-Great Recovery

Yesterday's employment numbers were back to normal (i.e., very grim) after three month of being merely grim. Payroll employment rose by 121 thousand in March after rising by more than 200 thousand in each of the previous three months.

As I pointed out last month, even the three "good" months of job growth were actually pretty grim because, at that rate, it would take another nine years for employment to return to trend. Now we're back to not even keeping up with population growth and the three "good" months might even have been illusory: Mild winter may have artificially inflated jobs data, economists fear.

There are lots of numbers out there, but the most revealing one is the employment-to-population ratio, which doesn't have the pitfalls inherent in the unemployment rate:
The unemployment rate decreased from 8.3 percent in February to 8.2 percent in March because the number of people who were in the labor market fell by 164,000 even as the population grew by 169,000. The number of people who have stepped out of the labor force grew by 333,000.
The employment-to-population ratio, which captures all of this, fell slightly.