Saturday, December 4, 2021

November jobs "meh", until you realize that over 1 million more Americans were working

Yesterday was another jobs Friday, and if you looked at the numbers a certain way, you'd say that it wasn't that great.

Quick digression - given how far off the jobs report numbers are vs "expectations", maybe the problem is the people doing the forecasts? Anyway, back to the data.

The initial payrolls number is "meh" compared to the large growth that we'd seen in recent months, but just like with previous reports in 2021, the prior months had their job growth revised up.
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised up by 67,000, from +312,000 to +379,000, and the change for October was revised up by 15,000, from +531,000 to +546,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 82,000 higher than previously reported.
So let's see if 210,000 is all we get for November job growth when more data is known in the coming months. Somehow I doubt it.

And besides, the real story to me is what happened in the household survey. Unemployment fell for the 5th straight month, well below the "expert predictions" of 4.5%, and nearly 1/3 lower than June's levels of 5.9%.
The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.2 percent in November. The number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020).....

The labor force participation rate edged up to 61.8 percent in November. The participation rate is 1.5 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 59.2 percent in November. This measure is up from its low of 51.3 percent in April 2020 but remains below the figure of 61.1 percent in February 2020.
Put the reduction in unemployed people of 542,000 and the increase in labor force of 592,000 and you get an increase in employed Americans of 1,134,000 for November. An insane number. Over 1 million more people identified as “employed” vs Oct. is likely an overestimate of reality, but as UW’s Menzie Chinn notes, the household survey had trailed the jobs gains over the last year, so perhaps this is simply having that survey catch up to the payrolls figures.

I will also point out that the “disappointing” payrolls number of 210,000 had a lot to do with seasonally-adjusted losses in the retail sector. But those “losses” are really a lack of hiring ahead of the Holiday shopping season.

Job change, Nov 2021
Clothing/accessory stores
Seasonally adjusted -17,700
Non-seasonally adjusted +54,900

Big box stores/Supercenters
Seasonally adjusted -12,900
Non-seasonally adjusted +71,900

Department Stores
Seasonally adjusted -7,500
Non-seasonally adjusted +94,500

This is understandable given that consumers don’t need to be on-site as much for these places any more, and because of the shortage in candidates willing to work in lower-wage, high-contact jobs like retail. Especially second jobs in such places.

Besides, who needs a second job when you can make more money in these types of gigs than you could have last year?
In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 8 cents to $31.03. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.8 percent. In November, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 12 cents to $26.40.
And it is much higher than that at the lower end of the pay scale.

Year-over-year change, Average hourly wage, Nov 2020- Nov 2021
Leisure and Hospitality +13.4% (+$1.97 per hour)
Education and Health Services +7.4% (+$1.92 per hour)
Retail Trade +5.25% (+$0.94 per hour)

All things considered, this seems like a pretty good jobs report to me. And I am far from noticing how different the numbers are being spun vs the last time we had unemployment in the low 4%'s.

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