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Friday, April 06, 2012

Construction Employment, Duration of Unemployment, Unemployment by Education and Diffusion Indexes

by Calculated Risk on 4/06/2012 01:09:00 PM

The first graph below shows the number of total construction payroll jobs in the U.S. including both residential and non-residential since 1969.

Construction employment decreased by 7 thousand jobs in March, giving back some of the gains from January. Last year was the first year with an increase in construction employment since 2006, and the first with an increase in residential construction employment since 2005.

Unfortunately this graph is a combination of both residential and non-residential construction employment. The BLS only started breaking out residential construction employment fairly recently (residential specialty trade contractors in 2001).

Usually residential investment (and residential construction) leads the economy out of recession, and non-residential construction usually lags the economy. Because this graph is a blend, it masks the usual pickup in residential construction following previous recessions. Of course there was no pickup for residential construction this time because of the large excess supply of vacant homes - although that appears to be changing and residential construction employment will probably increase this year.

Construction Employment Click on graph for larger image.

Construction employment is now generally increasing, and construction will add to both GDP and employment growth in 2012.

As I've noted for years, there are usually two bottoms for housing following a bubble: 1) when housing starts, new home sales, and residential construction bottoms, and 2) when house prices bottom. The bottom is in for construction and construction employment.

Duration of Unemployment

Unemployment Duration This graph shows the duration of unemployment as a percent of the civilian labor force. The graph shows the number of unemployed in four categories: less than 5 week, 6 to 14 weeks, 15 to 26 weeks, and 27 weeks or more.

All categories are generally moving down (the less than 5 week category is back to normal levels). The other categories are still high.

The the long term unemployed declined to 3.4% of the labor force - this is still very high, but the lowest since September 2009.

Unemployment by Education

Unemployment by Level of EducationThis graph shows the unemployment rate by four levels of education (all groups are 25 years and older).

Unfortunately this data only goes back to 1992 and only includes one previous recession (the stock / tech bust in 2001). Clearly education matters with regards to the unemployment rate - and it appears all four groups are generally trending down.

Note: This says nothing about the quality of jobs - as an example, a college graduate working at minimum wage would be considered "employed".

Diffusion Indexes

Employment Diffusion Index This is a little more technical. The BLS diffusion index for total private employment was at 59.6 in March, down slightly from 60.7 in January. For manufacturing, the diffusion index increased to 67.9, up from 59.9 in February.

Think of this as a measure of how widespread job gains are across industries. The further from 50 (above or below), the more widespread the job losses or gains reported by the BLS. From the BLS:
Figures are the percent of industries with employment increasing plus one-half of the industries with unchanged employment, where 50 percent indicates an equal balance between industries with increasing and decreasing employment.
It appears job growth was still fairly widespread in March.

We'd like to see the diffusion indexes consistently above 60 - and even in the 70s like in the '1990s.

Earlier Employment posts:
March Employment Report: 120,000 Jobs, 8.2% Unemployment Rate
Employment Summary and Discussion
All Employment Graphs