Friday, February 05, 2010

Employment-Population Ratio, Part Time Workers, Temporary Workers

by Bill McBride on 2/05/2010 09:39:00 AM

A common question is: how could there be fewer payroll jobs, but the unemployment rate declined? This is because the data comes from two separate surveys. The unemployment Rate comes from the Current Population Survey (CPS: commonly called the household survey), a monthly survey of about 60,000 households.

The jobs number comes from Current Employment Statistics (CES: payroll survey), a sample of approximately 400,000 business establishments nationwide.

The establishment survey showed a loss of 20,000 payroll jobs in January, but the household survey showed an increase in the employment level of 541,000. The number to use for jobs is the establishment survey, but the unemployment number is based on the household survey and the surveys can diverge over the short period, but over time this will work out (for more on the differences, see: Jobs and the Unemployment Rate).

Here are a few more graphs based on the employment report ...

Employment-Population Ratio

The Employment-Population ratio ticked up slightly to 58.4% in January, after plunging since the start of the recession. This is about the same level as in 1983.

Employment Population Ratio Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the employment-population ratio; this is the ratio of employed Americans to the adult population.

Note: the graph doesn't start at zero to better show the change.

The general upward trend from the early '60s was mostly due to women entering the workforce.

The Labor Force Participation Rate increased slightly to 64.7% (the percentage of the working age population in the labor force). This is at the level of the early 80s.

Temporary Workers

From the BLS report:

In January, temporary help services added 52,000 jobs. Since reaching a low point in September 2009, temporary help services employment has risen by 247,000.
Temporary Help This graph shows temporary help services (seasonally adjusted) and the unemployment rate. Unfortunately the data on temporary help services only goes back to 1990, but it does appear temporary help and the unemployment rate have been inversely correlated.

The thinking is that before companies hire permanent employees following a recession, employers will first increase the hours worked of current employees and also hire temporary employees. Since the number of temporary workers increased sharply, some people think this might be signaling the beginning of an employment recovery.

However, there has been some evidence of a shift by employers to more temporary workers, and the saying may become "We are all temporary now!", so use this increase with caution.

Note: the Census Bureau hired 9,000 temporary workers in January as part of the decennial census, and now employs 24,000 temporary workers.

Part Time for Economic Reasons

From the BLS report:
The number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell from 9.2 to 8.3 million in January. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
Part Time WorkersThe number of workers only able to find part time jobs (or have had their hours cut for economic reasons) declined sharply to 8.3 million.

The all time record was set in October.

Overall there were some positives in the report: the unemployment rate declined, average hours worked increased slightly, part time workers declined, and the employment-population ratio ticked up slightly (after plunging sharply). This is just one month - and January is the always a little tricky because of the heavy seasonal adjustment. I'll have even more later ...

Earlier employment post today:
  • Employment Report: 20K Jobs Lost, 9.7% Unemployment Rate for graphs of unemployment rate and a comparison to previous recessions.

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