Friday, November 06, 2009

Employment-Population Ratio, Record Part Time Workers, Weak Holiday Hiring

by Calculated Risk on 11/06/2009 09:24:00 AM

The [un]employment report headline numbers were ugly, but the internals are even less encouraging ...

Employment-Population Ratio

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.

This measure fell in October to 58.5%, the lowest level since the early '80s.

The Labor Force Participation Rate fell to 65.1% (the percentage of the working age population in the labor force). This is also the lowest since the mid-80s.

When the job market starts to recover, many of these people will reenter the workforce and look for employment - and that will keep the unemployment rate elevated for some time.

Part Time for Economic Reasons

From the BLS report:

The number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in October at 9.3 million. 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) is at a record 9.284 million.

Note: the U.S. population is significantly larger today (about 308 million) than in the early '80s (about 228 million) when the number of part time workers almost reached 7 million. Still - even adjusted for population - part time workers is at record levels.

Seasonal Retail Hiring

The old saying is "Watch what they do, not what they say". Yesterday there were some reports that retail sales were up slightly year-over-year. But retailers are hiring seasonal workers at the same pace as last year ...

Seasonal Retail Hiring Typically retail companies start hiring for the holiday season in October, and really increase hiring in November. Here is a graph that shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year.

This really shows the collapse in retail hiring in 2008.

Retailers only hired 63.5 thousand workers (NSA) net in October. This is essentially the same as in 2008 (59.1 thousand NSA), and suggests retailers are being very cautious with their seasonal hiring.

Earlier employment post today:
  • Employment Report: 190K Jobs Lost, 10.2% Unemployment Rate for graphs of unemployment rate and a comparison to previous recessions.