Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lower unemployment in St. Louis is bad news

The unemployment rate for the St. Louis MSA fell last month, to 7.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.  As has become well known during this recession and "recovery", the unemployment rate can be a very misleading indicator of economic conditions.  Steve Giegerich did a good job wrestling with this difficulty in the Post-Dispatch today.

My take on the St. Lous economy:
  • Although the BLS is underestimating it, St. Louis payroll employment is growing too slowly to recover the jobs lost during the recession anytime soon. In fact, as with national employment, it might not even be keeping up with population growth. 
  • The St. Louis unemployment rate has fallen by about 1.6 percentage points since June 2011.  Almost 24 thousand fewer people are unemployed, but most of this did not result in more employment.  The labor force shrank by 17.1 thousand while employment rose by only 6.6 thousand.  That is bad news.
  • Since January of this year, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points.  Although the number of unemployed fell by 6.2 thousand, the labor force shrank by even more (9.2 thousand).  Thus, the number of employed people fell.  That is bad news.