2011 Private Employment is 2% Below 2001 Levels

From the Liscio Report, via Alan Abelson, May Employment data shows that a limp recovery is growing limper.

“As our friends and astute data scanners at the Liscio Report, Philippa Dunne and Doug Henwood, observe, disappointments were scattered throughout the report, And while they don’t think May is “an overture to a double dip,” it does plainly reflect accelerating erosion on the job front . . .

More than a little shocking to Philippa and Doug (and to us as well) is that private employment today is 2% below where it stood 10 years ago and, as they’ve noted before, job loss over a 10-year period is unprecedented since the advent of something resembling reliable tallies began in 1890. So far, they point out somewhat grimly, “we’ve regained just 1.8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession and its aftermath, or about one in five.”

That is a truly astonishing datapoint: An unprecedented 10 Year loss of private sector jobs going back as far as reliable data has been available.

The sag in May employment was evident across a broad swath of the economy. The diffusion indices were mostly weak. Over half the payroll gain was accounted for by what Doug and Philippa call the “eat, drink and get sick” sectors—you know, bars, restaurants and health care, which, we might interject, are not typically dynamite payers. Government employment continued to decline in May, dropping 29,000, with local layoffs the main culprit.

The household survey, as the Liscio pair nicely put it, “filed no major dissent from its establishment counterpart.” After proper adjustment, they relate, “the two measures are pretty much aligned.” U-6, which includes the underemployed as well as the unemployed, was a bit of a bright spot, coming in at 15.8% versus April’s 15.9%. Also rating a modest cheer is that hourly wages edged up 0.3%, the biggest rise since January, thanks to a boost from manufacturing, whose hourly pay climbed 0.4%. Service workers, though, saw a rather meager 0.2% advance.

The number of folks out of work increased by 167,000, and a goodly number of those—44.6%, to be precise—have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, within crying distance of the all-time high. The average stay in the ranks of the jobless has reached the longest in the postwar period.

The Liscio duo label the labor market “torpid.” One man’s torpor, of course, is another man’s terror, depending on who has a job and who doesn’t. Philippa and Doug warn that, in any case, “we’re likely to see more of the same, with leading indicators rolling over and the forward-looking measures in this employment release (hours, temp employment) weak.”

One last tidbit from the Liscio report: “It’s probably wrong to think of this as the leading edge of a new recession: This kind of slow growth is just what you’d expect from a post-financial crisis recovery.”

That is classic Reinhart & Rogoff, and exactly what I have been quoting for a year now  . . .


The Great Payroll Heist
Alan Abelson
BARRON’s, JUNE 4, 2011  

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