Summary: The jobs report is a monthly gift for journalists and economists. Packed with numbers — mostly noise, with large error bars, subject to big revisions — it generates a flood of clickbait headlines and confident analysis. Lost in this are the important trends we need to know (aka “old news”, because they change slowly). Here are two of the big ones.
The experts will explain that this news is life-changingly significant, every month.
“June’s job growth was big and important!“
No, the June strong headline number is not important. Like May’s horrific slow growth, it’s probably just noise. More important are the 16 months of slowing job growth (i.e., job growth decelerating from the slow grow characteristic of this recovery). In February 2015 YoY growth in non-farm payrolls was 2.3%. In June it was 1.8%. This drop erased the acceleration of Feb 2014 – Feb 2015 that got economists excited about the big Fed rate increases coming really soon. Normal days were coming again! But they’ve been delayed, again.
“Job growth is slow, but it’s still growth!“
The number of jobs is not the best metric in the New America, with its growth in part-time, un-unionizable, no benefits, no training, disposable employees. A better (albeit, like all economic data, imperfect) measure is the total number of hours worked per month. For the full recovery it tells the same story as jobs: slow growth since the crash (jobs are up a total of only 4.4% over nine years, hours are up 5.3%).
But total hours have been flat for the past six months. (total hours for production and non-supervisory workers has been flat for seven months). That’s a red flag. Gaps like this between similar metrics deserve attention, since they signal that something is happening.