Jobs Contract 14th Straight Month; Unemployment Rate Soars to 8.1%

By: Mike Shedlock | Fri, Mar 6, 2009
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This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the February Employment Report.

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to fall sharply in February (-651,000), and the unemployment rate rose from 7.6 to 8.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Payroll employment has declined by 2.6 million in the past 4 months. In February, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors.

Nonfarm Payroll employment has shrunk below mid-2006 levels.

Establishment Data

Highlight

A total of 276,000 goods producing jobs were lost (higher paying jobs), and the service sector was clobbered once again as well. Government, the last place one wants to see jobs, added 9,000 jobs. The number government jobs has declining sharply, a welcome event, but I expect this to change in the months ahead along with various stimulus programs.

Note: some of the above categories overlap as shown in the preceding chart, so do not attempt to total them up.

Birth Death Model Revisions 2008

Birth Death Model Revisions 2009

Birth/Death Model Revisions

After the typical in January in which the Birth/Death Model revisions bore some semblance of reality, the Birth/Death numbers are back in outer space.

Many small 1-5 person service providing shops in mortgage lending and real estate are throwing in the towel. Those small businesses are not properly accounted for in the Birth-Death Model. At this point in the cycle birth death numbers should be massively contracting.

Month after month, with the exception of January, the BLS is assuming more jobs were created by new businesses than lost by businesses closing shop. The BLS model is horribly wrong.

BLS Black Box

For those unfamiliar with the birth/death model, monthly jobs adjustments are made by the BLS based on economic assumptions about the birth and death of businesses (not individuals). Those assumptions are made according to estimates of where the BLS thinks we are in the economic cycle.

The BLS has admitted however, that their model will be wrong at economic turning points. And there is no doubt we are long past an economic turning point.

Here is the pertinent snip from the BLS on Birth/Death Methodology.

Household Data

In February, the number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose by 787,000, reaching 8.6 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.7 million over the past 12 months. This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Persons Not in the Labor Force

About 2.1 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in February, 466,000 more than a year earlier. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, there were 731,000 discouraged workers in February, up by 335,000 from a year earlier.

Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The other 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Table A-5 Part Time Status

The chart shows 8.6 million people are working part time but want a full time job. A year ago the number was 4.9 million.

Table A-12

Table A-12 is where one can find a better approximation of what the unemployment rate really is. Let's take a look

Grim Statistics

The official unemployment rate is 8.1%. However, if you start counting all the people that want a job but gave up, all the people with part-time jobs that want a full-time job, all the people who dropped off the unemployment rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out, etc., you get a closer picture of what the unemployment rate is. That number is in the last row labeled U-6.

It reflects how unemployment feels to the average Joe on the street. U-6 is 14.8%. Both U-6 and U-3 (the so called "official" unemployment number) are poised to rise further.

Looking ahead, I expect the service sector to continue to weaken. Mall vacancy rates are rising and a huge contraction in commercial real estate is finally started. There is no driver for jobs and states in forced cutback mode are making matters far worse.

Unemployment is a lagging indicator, it is likely to continue rising until sometime in 2010.

ADP Employment Report

For another look at February jobs including a breakdown of stats by small, medium, and large sized businesses, please take a look at ADP Reports February Nonfarm Private Employment Decreased 697,000.

Depression Level Statistics

I consider these job losses to be depression level totals. Admittedly conditions are not as bad as the great depression, but this is certainly no ordinary recession by any economic measure including lending, housing, bank failures, jobs, the stock market, commodity prices, treasury yields etc. For more on this idea please see Humpty Dumpty On Inflation.

 


 

Mike Shedlock

Author: Mike Shedlock

Mike Shedlock / Mish
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Mike Shedlock

Michael "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/ to learn more about wealth management for investors seeking strong performance with low volatility.

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