December Unemployment Report Looks Static

The December 2016 unemployment report looks almost static as changes in most of the statistics are small.  The unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1% to 4.7%.  Those employed increased by 63,000 a very small monthly number.  Those unemployed monthly change was also relatively small.  Even those dropping out of the labor force barely registered for the month.  The labor participation rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point but the civilian to employment ratio remained the same.  Next month is when annual Census adjustments and revisions are made so we suspect all things will change with next months report.  In the meantime this report just looks like business as usual.


unemployment rate


This article overviews and graphs the statistics from the Employment report Household Survey also known as CPS, or current population survey.  The CPS survey tells us about people employed, not employed, looking for work and not counted at all.  The household survey has large swings on a monthly basis as well as a large margin of sampling error.  This part of the employment report is not about actual jobs gained, as reported by businesses, but people and their labor status.

Those employed number 152,111,000, a monthly increase of 63 thousand.  From a year ago, the ranks of the employed has increased by 2.081 million.  The annual gain has remained approximately two million for many months and is enough to keep up with population growth.


employed levels


Those unemployed increased by 120 thousand for the month, which is close to the 100,000 error margin, or in other words, statistically little change.  From a year ago the unemployed has decreased by −390,000.  That's about a 5% decline.


employed levels


Those not in the labor force is 95.102 million, a 18 thousand very insignificant monthly gain.  The below graph are the not in the labor force ranks.  Those not in the labor force has increased by 1,124,000 in the past year.  This is huge and needs further analysis as it is doubtful retiring baby boomers increased by over a million in a year.


not in labor force


The labor participation rate is 62.7%, a 0.1 percentage point increase  Pre-recession, the January 2008 labor participate rate was 66.2% and one must remember the job market was not good pretty much after 9/11.


labor participation rate


Below is a graph of the labor participation rate for those between the ages of 25 to 54.  The rate is 81.5% and this is a 0.1 percentage point increase from last month, which is statistically insignificant.  Ages 25-54 are the prime working years where people are not in retirement or in school full time as commonly as other age groups.  In January 2008 the prime working years labor participate rate was 83.3%.


labor participation rate ages 25 to 54


The civilian labor force, which consists of the employed and the officially unemployed, increased by 184,000 to 159,640,000.  The civilian labor force has grown by 1,683,000 over the past year.  The BLS counts those on guest worker Visas and even illegal workers mixed in with permanent resident and citizen workers in their statistics.


civilian labor force


Below is a graph of those not in the labor force, (maroon, scale on the left), against the noninstitutional civilian population (blue, scale on the right).   Notice how those not in the labor force crosses the noninstitutional civilian population in growth.  The civilian noninstituitonal population is from where all other labor statistics have sprung.


not in labor force against population growth


Below is a graph of the civilian labor force, or the official employed plus unemployed, in maroon, scale on left, against those not in the labor force, in blue, scale on right.   See how those not in the labor force as a trend exceeded those considered employed and unemployed starting around mid 2009.  Starting in 2014 it has reverted back, yet it oscillates starting in 2015.  To have a solid employment situation those not in the labor force should be growing less than those obtaining jobs and being counted as looking for work.  Those not in the labor force does include retirees and students and there is a baby boomer bump in both of these population groups.


civilian labor force again not in labor force


Those considered employed as a ratio to the total Civilian noninstitutional population is 59.7%, which is the same as last two previous months.  In January 2008, this figure was 62.9%.  The relationship between the employment-population ratio and the labor participation rate (LPR) is:    employment-population ratio = LPR * (1 - unemployment rate).


civilian pop to employment ratio


The number of people with part time work gives us some hints as to the kind of work being procured, since most career jobs are full time.  Those forced into part time work for economic reasons stands at 5,598,000 people.  This is a change of just -61,000 from last month and an annual decrease of -459 thousand, a very good showing.


part-time workers


This month's CPS report by itself just doesn't have any stand out statistics.  The labor participation rate just is stuck in record lows and nothing seems to budge it, including the rate for those in their prime working years.  From the establishment survey, which isn't covered here, the better news is a 10 cent increase in wages for the month and an annual 2.9% wage increase.  Here are our past overviews CPS unemployment statistics, only graphs revised.

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