Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heading toward recession? Not really (jobs version)

2 days ago featured a "jobs Friday," with the release of the monthly jobs and unemployment numbers. And the January report had extra resonance on the state of the economy- the first being the release of the 0.1% drop in U.S. GDP from the day before (which I went over in this post). The second reason is that the January report also features benchmarking of the previous 12 months, as data gets refined over time.

The immediate report was fine- January had another 157,000 jobs overall and 166,000 jobs in the private sector- a decent report that was not much different than previous months. But it was in the benchmarks that the real news of the report was shown, as 2012's figures were even better than first thought.

Page 3 of the report shows
In accordance with annual practice, the establishment survey data released today have been benchmarked to reflect comprehensive counts of payroll jobs. These counts are derived principally from unemployment insurance tax records for March 2012. The benchmark process results in revisions to not seasonally adjusted data from April 2011 forward. Seasonally adjusted data from January 2008 forward are subject to revision. In addition, data for some series prior to 2008, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, incorporate minor revisions.

The total nonfarm employment level for March 2012 was revised upward by 422,000 (424,000 on a not seasonally adjusted basis).
The report gives the monthly changes for total jobs in every month of 2012 as well, and it shows that the first part three months in particular had big gains. In addition, after a soft patch in the 2nd quarter, job growth continued at a pace of 150,000-200,000 a month for the last 6 months of the year.

Job gains by quarter, U.S. 2012
2012 Q1 +787,000 jobs
2012 Q2 +324,000 jobs
2012 Q3 +456,000 jobs
2012 Q4 +603,000 jobs
TOTAL 2012- +2.17 million jobs

It also illustrates tht Wisconsin is even further behind the rest of the nation than we previously knew. Granted, Wisconsin's numbers will be benchmarked as well when they release next month's jobs report, but as it stands right now, the Walker jobs gap has stretched to 104,000. You can also see the effect of the revisions around December 2011 for the U.S. figures in these charts.

These figures certainly aren't indicative of any type of recession, and while hourly earnings aren't going gangbusters (and need to do better, given our increased productivity), they were still around the rate of inflation at 2.1% over the last 12 months. The average hours worked per employee are basically the same as we had this time last year, so what it means is that we have more people working, and those who are working are making what they made similar to last year, so that would indicate economic growth.

That doesn't mean things are necessarily booming, and the unemployment rate stuck between 7.8% and 7.9% the last 4 months shows that while job growth is making up for the 1.3 million new entrants to the work force in the last year, it's not grabbing that many others on top of those new entrants. But it does mean we remain in a moderate growth pattern, and that we should continue to emphasize employment and better wages in the near term over austerity and deficit-based budget-cutting.

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