Friday, February 3, 2012

January Unemployment Data

You know the drill, so here are the numbers for January, 2012:

Population: +1,685,000
Employed: -737,000
Unemployed: +849,000
Labor Force: +112,000

So while we added 1.6 million people to the population (that almost seems like a typo, given that we only added 1.9 million people in all of 2011! See update below.), we lost -737,000 jobs and 112,000 people started looking for work again, resulting in a total increase in unemployment of 849,000 for the month of January.  This brings unemployment up to 8.8% and the employed-to-population ratio down to 57.8%.

While this may seem like a huge loss of jobs compared to previous months, we have to keep in mind that the majority of temporary seasonal jobs created around Christmas were going to end in January, so we would expect this unemployment number to be somewhat high.  It might be more cheery to see how employment fares when split into part-time and full-time workers.  According to the these numbers:

Full Time Jobs:  -1,171,000
Part Time Jobs: +435,000

Looking at it that way actually makes the situation worse.  It isn't just that we lost 737k jobs in total, we actually lost 1.17 million full time jobs, and only made some of that back by increasing part time jobs by 435k. That's not a positive development if we're looking for long-term growth.  But employment numbers are reported in the media largely as a matter of whether or not we beat expectations, and expectations can always be lowered, so this will probably be trumpeted as an indicator of strong economic growth.  In an election year, can we really expect any different?

Following Trends

To cap this off, we'll look at some more trend data to see if it follows previous months. Dividing the employment data by gender reveals a reversal this month:

Male Employment: -1,065,000
Female Employment: +329,000

Dividing employment by age is also interesting: 

16-19: -303,000
20-24: -88,000
25-34: -805,000
35-44: +44,000
45-54: -36,000
55+: +351,000

You might say that in the first month of 2012, the US workforce got a lot older, and a lot more female.


UPDATE: The BLS explains that the apparent huge spike in US population in January is actually an adjustment due to 2010 census data (which means that the employed-to-population ratio numbers for 2010 were actually worse than was presented).  They also said that they won't be going back to fix the 2010 records with the real data.