Friday, June 05, 2009

Unemployment Compared to Stress Test Scenarios, and Diffusion Index

by Bill McBride on 6/05/2009 09:30:00 AM

Note: earlier Employment post: Employment Report: 345K Jobs Lost, 9.4% Unemployment Rate.

Stress Test Unemployment Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the unemployment rate compared to the stress test economic scenarios on a quarterly basis as provided by the regulators to the banks (no link).

This is a quarterly forecast: in Q1 the unemployment rate was higher than the "more adverse" scenario. The Unemployment Rate in Q2 (only two months) is already higher than the "more adverse" scenario, and will probably rise further in June.

Note also that the unemployment rate has already exceeded the peak of the "baseline scenario".

Here is a look at how "widespread" the job losses are using the employment diffusion index from the BLS.

In May, job losses continued to be widespread across major industry sectors. Steep job losses continued in manufacturing, while the rate of decline moderated in several industries, including construction, professional and business services, and retail trade.
BLS, April Employment Report
Employment Diffusion IndexThe BLS diffusion index is a measure of how widespread changes in employment are. Some people think it measures the percent of industries increasing employment, but that isn't quite correct.

From the BLS handbook:
The diffusion indexes for private nonfarm payroll employment are based on estimates for 278 industries, while the manufacturing indexes are based on estimates for 84 industries. Each component series is assigned a value of 0, 50, or 100 percent, depending on whether its employment showed a decrease, no change, or an increase over a given period. The average (mean) value is then calculated, and this percent is the diffusion index number.
Think of this as a measure of how widespread the job losses are across industries. The further from 50 (above or below), the more widespread the job losses or gains reported by the BLS.

Before September, the all industries employment diffusion index was close to 40, suggesting that job losses were limited to a few industries. However starting in September the diffusion index plummeted. In December, the index hit 20.5, suggesting job losses were very widespread. The index has recovered since then (32.7 in May), suggesting job losses are less widespread.

The manufacturing diffusion index has fallen even further, from 40 in May 2008 to just 6 in January 2009. The manufacturing index is still very low at 12, and manufacturing employment is still getting hit hard:
Steep job losses continued in manufacturing, while declines moderated in construction and several service-providing industries.

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