Another Strong Jobs Report? Phooey, and I Can Prove It

Payroll and employment data from the BLS, chart by Mish Today, the Bureau of Labor […]

Payroll and employment data from the BLS, chart by Mish

Payroll and employment data from the BLS, chart by Mish

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Monthly Payroll Report.

Initial Thoughts

  • The discrepancy between jobs and employment continues for the eighth month.
  • Lost in the unemployment and jobs headline noise are huge divergences between jobs and employment dating back to March. 

Payrolls vs Employment Since March 2022

  • Nonfarm Payrolls: +2,692,000
  • Employment Level: +12,000
  • Full Time Employment: -398,000

Employment fell by 138,000 in November.

Full time employment is down 398,000 since March and down by 480,000 since May!

Typical Headlines 

  • The StreetInsider headline says “U.S. job juggernaut rolled on in November; nonfarm payrolls up 263,000”
  • The Wall Street Journal headline says “U.S. Economy Added 263,000 Jobs in November”

Both reports and mainstream in general miss the big picture captured in my lead chart. 

The internal details have been weak for 8 month and I have been talking about the discrepancy for six of them. 

Job Report Details

  • Nonfarm Payroll: +263,000 to 153,548,000 – Establishment Survey
  • Civilian Non-institutional Population: +173,000 to 264,708,000
  • Civilian Labor Force: -186,000 to 164,481,000 – Household Survey
  • Participation Rate: -0.1 to 62.1% – Household Survey
  • Employment: -138,000 to 158,470,000 Household Survey
  • Unemployment: -48,000 to 6,011,000- Household Survey
  • Baseline Unemployment Rate: +0.0 to 3.7% – Household Survey
  • Not in Labor Force: +359,000 to 100,227,000 – Household Survey
  • U-6 unemployment: 10.1 to 6.7% – Household Survey

Revision Details

  • The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised down by 46,000, from +315,000 to +269,000
  • The change for October was revised up by 23,000, from +261,000 to +284,000. 
  • With these revisions, employment gains in September and October combined were 23,000 lower than previously reported.

Labor Force

Another 186,000 people dropped out of the labor force in November. That’s why the decline in employment of 138,000 did not cause the unemployment rate to rise. 

The number of working-age persons people not in the labor force rose by 359,000 in November and is back over 100 million

If you are not in the labor force, you are not unemployed. 

Change in Nonfarm Payrolls

BLS Month-Over-Month Chart

BLS Month-Over-Month Chart

Manufacturing jobs are still strong, at least as reported. That is unlikely to last given miserable ISM statistics. 

For discussion, please see Manufacturing Has Peaked This Cycle, 8 of 11 ISM Components in Contraction

Part-Time Jobs

The above numbers never total correctly due to the way the BLS makes adjustments. I list them as reported.

In March, the BLS said full-time employment was 132,718,000. Today it says 132,320,00.

This discrepancy has hasted 8 straight months. Everything points to part time jobs to fueling the job gains.

Hours and Wages

  • Average weekly hours of all private employees fell 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours. 
  • Average weekly hours of all private service-providing was flat at 33.4 hours. 
  • Average weekly hours of manufacturers fell 0.2 hour to 40.2 hours.

I expected that decline in manufacturing hours and expect still more coming up. 

Hourly Earnings

Average Hourly Earnings of All Nonfarm Workers rose $0.18 to $32.82. A year ago the average wage was $31.23. That’s a gain of 4.8%.

Average hourly earnings of Production and Supervisory Workers rose $0.19 to $28.10. A year ago the average wage was $26.55. That’s a gain of 5.5%.

Despite the gains, wages have not kept up with inflation. However, Fed Chair Jerome Powell will not be pleased with these strong wage gains. 

Birth Death Model

Starting January 2014, I dropped the Birth/Death Model charts from this report.

The birth-death model pertains to the birth and death of corporations not individuals except by implication. 

For those who follow the numbers, I retain this caution: Do not subtract the reported Birth-Death number from the reported headline number. That approach is statistically invalid.

The model is wrong at economic turning points and is also heavily revised and thus essentially useless.

Scroll to Continue


Alternative Measures of Unemployment

Table A-15 2022-11

Table A-15 is where one can find a better approximation of what the unemployment rate really is.

The official unemployment rate is 3.7%.

U-6 is much higher at 6.7%. Both numbers would be way higher still, were it not for millions dropping out of the labor force over the past few years.

Some of those dropping out of the labor force retired because they wanted to retire. Some dropped out over Covid fears and never returned. Still others took advantage of a strong stock market and retired early.

The rest is disability fraud, forced retirement (need for Social Security income), and discouraged workers.

Unemployment Rate

Unemployment rate data from the BLS, chart by Mish.

Unemployment rate data from the BLS, chart by Mish.

In September, the unemployment rate was a record low 3.5 percent. Today it’s 3.7 percent. 

However, there are 100,227,000 people of working age who are not working that seemingly don’t matter. 

Changing Employment Dynamics

Covid-19 had an enormous impact on the labor force. Some job losses are permanent, millions of other other people now work from home.

Stimulus provided incentives to not work and some of those workers are returning to the labor markets now.

As of January 2022, there were 22 million workers age 60 and over. Millions will retire soon which will put upward pressure on hiring.

Household Survey vs. Payroll Survey

The payroll survey (sometimes called the establishment survey) is the headline jobs number, generally released the first Friday of every month. It is based on employer reporting.

The household survey is a phone survey conducted by the BLS. It measures unemployment and many other factors.

If you work one hour, you are employed. If you don’t have a job and fail to look for one, you are not considered unemployed, rather, you drop out of the labor force.

Looking for job openings on Jooble or Monster or in the want ads does not count as “looking for a job”. You need an actual interview or send out a resume.

These distortions artificially lower the unemployment rate, artificially boost full-time employment, and artificially increase the payroll jobs report every month.

Increasing Divergence

Nonfarm payrolls are a subset of all jobs, but generally the numbers move in the same direction over time.

The Employment (Household Survey) is noisy. However, 8 months is a reasonable time frame for discrepancies to resolve.

Since March of 2022, payrolls are up about 2.7 million but full time employment is down by 398,000.

All of the employment rise (and then some) since March is part-time employment. 

Q&A What’s Going On?

Q: Hey Mish, What’s Going On?
A: People are taking on second part time jobs to make ends meet. But overall employment (the total number of people working is stagnant.

As I have been saying for many months, don’t watch the unemployment rate, watch employment levels.

But hooray! The media reports of a “strong jobs juggernaut” continue unabated.

Expect a Long But Shallow Recession With Minimal Rise in Unemployment

Given hiring pressures and boomer retirements, Expect a Long But Shallow Recession With Minimal Unemployment Rise

The stock market is another issue. For discussion, please see Artificial Wealth vs GDP: Why Earnings and the Stock Market Will Get Crushed

While I expect the unemployment rate will not rise much in this recession, at least compared to the average recession impact, employment is another matter.

This post originated at MishTalk.Com

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The original article can be found at: Mish Talk - Global Economics