Friday, February 06, 2009

Employment Diffusion Index

by Bill McBride on 2/06/2009 11:04:00 AM

In January, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors.
BLS, January Employment Report
Here is a look at how "widespread" the job losses are ...

Changes in Employment Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the cumulative changes in employment starting in August 2007 (red line is total nonfarm employment). Total employment peaked in December 2007, but the graph starts earlier to show the three key areas - construction, retail and manufacturing - that all saw earlier job losses.

Until a few months ago, the total job losses were far less than the combined losses in construction, retail and manufacturing, suggesting other areas of the economy were doing OK.

However starting in September 2008, job losses in other areas of the economy started increasing rapidly. Still these three industries have been hit hard:

IndustryJob LossesPercent of Industry

The employment diffusion index from the BLS tells the same story.

Employment Diffusion IndexA diffusion index is a measure of the dispersion of change. This gives a feel for how widespread job gains and losses are across industries. The closer to 50, the more narrow the changes in employment.

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. As of January the index is at 25.3, suggesting job losses are now widespread.

The manufacturing diffusion index has fallen even further, from 40 in May 2008 to just 7.8 in January 2009. Although construction employment has been hit hard (and will see further jobs in 2009 with the CRE bust), manufacturing is now the hardest hit industry.