Written by Steven Hansen
The delayed September 2013 BLS jobs report was below expectations, and even our analysis of the unadjusted data was disappointing.
- The trend lines are flat to mildly declining. The unadjusted growth this month is the worst since 2009 (year-over-year comparisons).
- economic intuitive sectors of employment were mixed.
- This month’s report internals are significantly inconsistent between the survey portion and the establishment portion.
- In the August jobs report, it has been reported that a significant portion of jobs losses were due to an HIV scare in the Porn Industry – motion pictures were down 22.2K last month but is up 6.8K in September.
A summary of the employment situation:
- BLS reported: 148K (non-farm) and 126K (non-farm private). Unemployment = down 0.1% to 7.2%
- ADP reported: 166K (non-farm private)
- Market expected: 165K to 183K (non-farm), 180K to 183K (non-farm private), 7.3% unemployment
- Econintersect‘s Forecast: 160K (non-farm private) based on economic potential
- The NFIB released a statement (below) saying that small business employment growth degraded again in September 2013.
The BLS reports seasonally adjusted data. This data is highly manipulated, and Econintersect believes the unadjusted data gives a clearer picture of the jobs situation.
Non-seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls fell 404,000 – the worst September job growth since 2009.
Historical Unadjusted Private Non-Farm Jobs Growth Between Julys and Augusts (Table B-1, data in thousands) – unadjusted (blue line) vs seasonally adjusted (red line)
/images/bls non-adjusted change.PNG
As always, the recent past data was revised – this month was mostly downward including last months data.
Change in Seasonally Adjusted Non-Farm Payrolls Between Originally Reported (blue bars) and Current Estimates (red bars)
Most of the analysis below uses unadjusted data, and presents an alternative view to the headline data.
The BLS reported U-3 (headline) unemployment was down 0.1% at 7.2% with the U-6 “all in” unemployment rate (including those working part time who want a full time job) fell 0.1% to 13.6%. These numbers are volatile as they are created by survey every month.
BLS U-3 Headline Unemployment (red line, left axis), U-6 All In Unemployment (blue line, left axis), and Median Duration of Unemployment (green line, right axis)
Econintersect has an interpretation of employment supply slack using the BLS unadjusted data base, demonstrated by the graph below.
The jobs picture when you view the population as a whole. and with this months data it appears there has been little change in the jobs situation since the end of the recession.
- Econintersect uses employment-populations ratios to monitor the jobless situation. The headline unemployment number requires the BLS to guess at the size of the workforce, then guess again who is employed or not employed. In employment – population ratios, the population is a given and the guess is who is employed.
- In the latest BLS report employment-population ratio was unchanged at 58.6 – this ratio is within its short term trend between 58.5 and 58.6. The employment-population ratio tells you the percent of the population with a job. Each 0.1% increment represents approximately 300,000 jobs. [Note: these are seasonally adjusted numbers – and we are relying on the BLS to get this seasonal adjustment factor correct]. An unchanged ratio would be telling you that jobs growth was around 150,000 – as this is approximately the new entries to the labor market caused by population growth.
The 3 year growth trend is up, and the short term trends are mixed depending on the periods selected – however, it seems the growth trend in the last 18 months is relatively flat. The three month trend is now clearly downward.
Unadjusted Non-Farm Payrolls Year-over-Year Growth
Another way to view employment is to watch the total hours worked which has been been growing at a slower rate since the middle of 2010.
Percent Change Year-over-Year Non-Farm Private Weekly Hours Worked
The bullets below use seasonally adjusted data:
- Average hours worked (table B-2) was unchanged at 34.5 (up one month, down the next). A falling number does not indicate an expanding economy . This number has been in a narrow channel several months.
- Government employment expanded 22,000 with the Federal Government down 6,000, state governments up 22,000 and local governments up 6,000.
- The big contributor to employment growth this month was construction (20.0K) temporary employment (20.2K) and transport (23.4K)
- The big headwinds this month was accommodation and food (-10.8K)
- Manufacturing was up 2,000, while construction was up 20,000.
- The unemployment rate for people between 20 and 24 (Table A-10) improved from 13.0% to 12.9%. This number is produced by survey and is very volatile – and this month’s degradation only reversed last month’s improvement.
- Average hourly earnings (Table B-3) rose three cents to $24.09.
Private Employment: Average Hourly Earnings
Economic markers used to benchmark economic growth were mixed, but well away from recessionary levels.
The truck employment was up (1.0K). The year-over-year improvement is well into expansion territory, although it has a declining growth trend line.
Truck Transport Employment – Year-over-Year Change
Temporary help increased (20.2K). Note that many believe (I am not convinced), that Obamacare is creating a shift from permanent to temporary jobs. If this is the case, this metric would be inoperative.
Temporary Help Employment – Year-over-Year Change
Econintersect believes the transport sector is a forward indicator. Others look at temporary help as a forward indicator.
Food for Thought
Who is the victims in this mediocre employment situation. It is not people over 55.
Index of Employment Levels – 55 and up (dark grey line), 45 to 54 (purple line), 35 to 44 (orange line), 25 to 34 (green line), 20 to 24 (red line), and 16 to 19 (blue line)
Women are doing better than men.
Index of Employment Levels – Men (blue line) vs Women (red line)
Mom and Pop employment is below recessionary levels.
The less education one has, the less chance of finding a job.
Index of Employment Levels – University graduate (blue line), Some college or AA degree (orange line), high school graduates (green line), and high school dropouts (red line)
And being white is not helpful for employment. FRED does not have data series for Asians, but the BLS does – and indexed Asian employment levels are similar to Hispanic.
Index of Employment Levels – Hispanic (blue line), African American (red line), and White (green line)
Chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) William C. Dunkelberg released the following statement in advance of this jobs report:
“School was in this September, but hiring was not—at least not for those in the small-business community.
“In still another ‘ho-hum’ jobs report, NFIB owners reduced employment by an average of 0.10 workers per firm in September. This reversed August’s tiny bump that came only after three months of negative numbers (small employers added 0.08 workers added on average in August).
“Eleven (11) percent of the owners surveyed (down 3 points) reported adding an average of 1.5 workers per firm over the past few months. Offsetting that, 11 percent reduced employment (up 1 point) an average of 2.7 workers (seasonally adjusted), producing the seasonally adjusted gain of negative 0.10 workers per firm overall. The remaining 78 percent of owners made no net change in employment. Fifty-one (51) percent of the owners hired or tried to hire in the last three months and 41 percent (80 percent of those trying to hire or hiring) reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions.
“Reports of workforce reductions are at normal or sub-normal levels, which may explain the favorable levels of initial claims for unemployment. Only 11 percent of owners reported reducing employment—the third lowest reading since October 2007; the other two lowest readings also occurred this year. But this isn’t cause for elation; overall, owners are reporting sub-parlevels of hiring, so job growth remains anemic even with low levels of initial unemployment claims.
“Twenty (20) percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period (up 1 point), also a positive signal for the unemployment rate. Fourteen (14) percent of those surveyed reported using temporary workers, down 2 points from August. Most of the jobs being ‘created’ are likely be part-time, as owners hedge their hiring while they try to fathom how the healthcare law, its regulations and penalties will impact them. And consumer spending, especially on services, posted only modest gains, providing little reason to add to full-time workforces.
“Job creation plans remain lackluster; they lost a point from August, landing at nine percent. Not seasonally adjusted, 13 percent plan to increase employment at their firm (down 1 point), and nine percent plan reductions (down 1 point).
“Housing starts have stalled, just shy of the 900,000 unit mark (although multi-family starts are still solid and provide more jobs per start). Housing is labor intensive and more growth in the industry will boost employment numbers. Mortgage rates are historically low, but young buyers are less enamored with the house as an investment, are more mobile, are less certain about jobs and have a lot of college debt, depressing purchasing decisions. Overall, consumer spending is showing little strength, depriving owners of the best incentive for hiring – more customers and more spending. The NFIB survey anticipates more of the same: another sub-par month for job creation.”
Caveat on the use of BLS Jobs Data
The monthly headline data ends up being significantly revised for months after the initial release – and is subject also to annual revisions. The question remains how seriously can you take the data when first released.
The above graphic (updated through October 2011) is the month-over-month change in employment based on the original headline non-farm employment level and the current stated employment levels at month end. You will note some pretty drastic backward revision for a major economic release the market reacts to in real time.
Econintersect Contributor Jeff Miller has the following description of BLS methodology:
- An initial report of a survey of establishments. Even if the survey sample was perfect (and we all know that it is not) and the response rate was 100% (which it is not) the sampling error alone for a 90% confidence interval is +/- 100K jobs.
- The report is revised to reflect additional responses over the next two months.
- There is an adjustment to account for job creation — much maligned and misunderstood by nearly everyone.
- The final data are benchmarked against the state employment data every year. This usually shows that the overall process was very good, but it led to major downward adjustments at the time of the recession. More recently, the BLS estimates have been too low.
Econintersect has repeatedly pointed out questions about how the seasonal adjustment algorithms and data gathering methodology used by the BLS introduce uncertainty into interpretation of month to month changes in employment.
Econintersect believes the simplistic sampling extrapolation technique of ADP yields a far better picture of the employment situation than the complicated, convoluted Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) methodology. However, ADP is using a new methodology beginning with the October 2012 data – and only time will tell if their new approach was as good as their old one.
ADP (blue line) versus BLS (red line) – Monthly Jobs Growth Comparison
Because of the differences in methodology, many pundits ignore the ADP numbers – while waiting for the BLS numbers. Although there can be a low correlation in a particular month, the different methodologies tend to balance out, and the correlations are excellent outside of the data turning points. We are now 16 months past the post recession turning point in employment.
However, there is some discussion that neither the ADP or BLS numbers are correct – as both are derived by a sampling methodology. The answer could be that there is no correct answer in real time – and that it is best to look at the trends. As has been noted, all eventually end up correlating.
The BLS uses seasonal adjusted data for its headline numbers. The seasonally adjusted employment data is produced by an algorithm. The following graph which shows unadjusted job growth – seasonal adjustments spread employment growth over the entire year. Employment does not really grow in the second half of the year and always falls significantly in Januarys.
Non-Seasonally Adjusted Employment – Private Sector
There is the proverbial question on what is minimal jobs growth each month required to allow for new entrants to the market. Depending on mindset, this answer varies. According to Investopdia, the number is between 100,000 and 150,000. The Wall Street Journal is citing 125K. Mark Zandi said 150K. Econintersect is going with Mark Zandi’s number:
- If Econintersect used employment / population ratios to determine the number, the exact number seems to be between 140,000 and 160,000. The graph below uses the historical employment-population ratios to show jobs growth per month if the population was 300 million.
Historical Monthly Jobs Growth Comparison if Population was 300 Million
- If Econintersect uses employment – population ratios, the correct number would be the number where this ratio improved. Using the graph below, the ratio began to improve starting a little after mid-year. This corresponds to the period where the 12 month rolling average of job gains hit 150,000.
Employment to Population Ratio
Note: The ratio could be fine tuned by adjusting to the ratio of employment to working age population rather than the total population. However, this would not change the big picture that an increase of somewhere around 150,000 (+/-) is needed for the growing population numbers. We have estimated 140k – 160k. The number might possibly be within the range 125k – 175k. Econintersect cannot find reason to support the estimates below 125k.
The question of how changing demographics impact the employment numbers is at the margins of analysis. Econintersect will publish more on this fine tuning going forward, both in-house research and the work of others.
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