Tag Archives: Unemployment Rate

The Hidden Job Market is Alive and Well — and That’s Not Good News!

data point tuesday_500

Last week I wrote about matching the number of job openings to the number of unemployed people by industry. The numbers were arresting. I used data from the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz.

In that post, Unemployed Workers Still Far Outnumber Job Openings in Every Major Sector, Shierholz provided this graph showing the Job-Seekers ratio from December 2000 through April 2013 based on data from the BLS JOLTS Survey and Current Population Survey:

Not enough jobs to go around June 2013

This is an incredible view of the last 13 years. The Jobs-to-Seekers ratio in December 2000 was 1 to 1.1:  pretty much full employment. The unemployment rate that month was 3.9%, which means that even people who didn’t want to work were working.

As I read the data, though, it looks a little odd:  the CPS (Current Population Survey) and the JOLTS Survey together show that in April while there were 3,737,000 reported job openings, 4,425,000 workers were hired and 4,279,000 workers were separated for a net employment increase of 146,000. Which means that  688,000 more workers were hired than there were job openings. Even if these April hires were from the March job openings (3,875,000), there were still 550,000 more hires than openings.

So the hidden job market must be alive and well if we’re hiring more than half-a-million more workers than there are reported openings. Think about that. And think about the reported skills shortages. And think about the difference between structural and cyclical unemployment (which I wrote about here).

The reason our unemployment rate continues to stay at an unacceptable and economy-stopping 7%+ may not be so related to the lack of new job creation – we appear to be filling more than the reported number of job openings every month! – but to the scarcity of specific skills and talent. So maybe the skills gap is real and the 9,000,000+ workers who are unemployed will stay that way until they acquire new skills or further lower their job targets.

Either way, that’s not good news for employers with openings they can’t fill, workers who can’t find jobs for the skills they have, or our economy which can’t get out of 2nd gear.

The hidden job market is very much alive. Too bad that’s not good news.

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Hidden Job Market, HR Data, Job Creation, Structural Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

7.8% Huh?

Most people saw the U.S. jobs report numbers on Friday and thought, “this doesn’t make sense.”   All the data we’ve been seeing shows that employment continues to be weak and job seekers continue to drop out of the job market.

Monster’s Employment Index for September showed a 2 point decline month-over-month:

That’s a decline in U.S. online job posting activity.  This would indicate a slowdown in hiring not a hiring urge of massive proportions.

The Glassdoor Q3 Employment Confidence Survey shows a pretty strong worsening of confidence on the part of job seekers that they’ll find a job in the next six months:

This wouldn’t indicate that job seekers see people around them getting jobs.  And 59% of employed people don’t think they could replace their job in six months.  Six months!

So what’s the deal with the massive reduction in the unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.8%?  Well, as I wrote here, the official BLS unemployment rate combines data from two surveys conducted by the U.S. government:  The Establishment Survey which surveys employers and the Household Survey which surveys thousands of households on a range of topics including employment.  The two surveys tell two very different stories in September.

Here’s the Establishment Survey portion of the jobs report from the BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 114,000 in September. In 2012, employment growth has averaged 146,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.

So we’re down from the monthly average in both 2011 and 2012.  And the monthly average in 2011 was higher than this year’s monthly average.  Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 114,000 in September.  That isn’t enough to cover the new entrants into the labor force – much less hundreds of thousands of unemployed job seekers.

The Household Survey tells a different story:

Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 58.7 percent, after edging down in the prior 2 months. The overall trend in the employment-population ratio for this year has been flat. The civilian labor force rose by 418,000 to 155.1 million in September, while the labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.6 percent.

So.  Total employment – as reported by individuals not employers – rose by 873,000 in September following “three months of little change.”  Despite declining confidence in almost every other survey we see, 873,000 people reported working in September who weren’t working in August.  It boggles the mind.

Here’s where those jobs came from:

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose from 8.0 million in August to 8.6 million in September. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Part-timers.  600,000 new part-timers.  Part-timers who could be working as little as a couple of hours a week from home. Truly, it boggles the mind.

This is all very confusing.  We’re covered over in statistics, trends and data that tell us that the employment picture is stagnant at best.  Confidence in the job market continues to decline. And the unemployment rate went down .3% in one month.

I’m with Jack Welch:  I can’t connect these dots.

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, Connecting Dots, Employment Data, Glassdoor, HR Data, Jack Welch, Monster, U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Low Employment vs. High Unemployment Around the World

As we prepare to attract, develop and retain skilled workers around the world, who works and who doesn’t work is interesting to me.  So I thought I’d share the following charts that I ran across in a collection of statistics published by the International Labor Comparisons Division of the BLS.  The first shows a comparison of the employment population ratios (proportion of the working-age population that is employed) by sex in 16 countries, adjusted to U.S. concepts.

According to the BLS definitions, employment includes all people who:

  1. worked at least 1 hour as paid employees, working in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked at least 15 hours as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise, and
  2. all those who did not work but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent due to vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management disputes, job training, or other family or personal reasons, regardless of whether they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.

(Actually, I don’t know which is more interesting, the definition of employment above or the chart that follows…)

It’s interesting to note the differences in employment percentages  between men and women. Turkey (40.7),  Mexico (33.4), the Republic of Korea (22.4) and Japan (22) all have differences of 20 points or more between the sexes’ employment rates, and Italy (19.5) is right there as well.  Those are big gaps.

But add this to the mix:  there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between these low employment rates of women and the overall national unemployment rates.  See the chart below:

It intuitively makes sense that South Africa with the lowest percentage of women employed in the workforce would also have the highest overall unemployment rate.  However the relationship between these two data points isn’t as consistent as we might assume across other countries.

Look at the data for Mexico, Japan and Korea.  They all report low employment rates for women and low overall unemployment rates.  Not so intuitive.

That’s what I enjoy about people related statistics.  Just when you think you’ve figured it out, the data throw you curve ball.

What do you think the story is here?  Is it fair to try to find a pattern in data like this?  What conclusions can you draw from this?

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Demographics, Employment Data, HR Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point #11: Talent optimism vs. realism

We’re surrounded by all kinds of data points about the talent/skill shortage.  I wrote about it here and here.  Today we have two data points:  one comes from SHRM’s Q2 2012 Jobs Outlook Survey Report and the second comes from the BLS 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

SHRM’s Jobs Outlook Survey has some interesting data from a small sample of its 250,000+ members.  (This particular survey was sent to 3,000 randomly selected SHRM members with 336 members responding, for an 11% response rate.)  These quarterly JOS surveys ask HR professionals interesting questions about optimism in job growth, planned changes in total staff levels, categories of workers companies will hire and categories of workers most difficult to hire in the previous quarter.

I was particularly interested in the responses to the question asking which categories of workers were most difficult to hire in the 1st Quarter of this year.  The sample is small (n=246), so the data are directional at best, but do line up with other data sources.

This data is congruent with BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) data relative to education level attainment and the corresponding unemployment rates in April.  The higher the unemployment rate, the lower the difficulty to hire:

  • Less than high school:                                   12.5%
  • High school no college:                                  7.9%
  • Some college or Associate degree:               7.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher:                         4.0%

In other words, it’s more difficult to find skilled professionals and managers in this job market because there are fewer of them unemployed and there are fewer of them overall.  It’s easier to find service workers and unskilled manual workers because more of them are unemployed and there are more of them overall.

But still, as the SHRM report highlights, employers are having difficulty in hiring at all levels.  Which makes me wonder:  are we being unnecessarily restrictive in our job specifications?  Are we hiring people with college degrees when an associate degree would suffice?  Are we requiring associate degrees when a high school degree would be adequate?  I don’t know the answer, but considering the data is interesting.

The Occupation Outlook Handbook, published by the BLS, shows the projected job growth by education category in the 2010-2020 decade:

While the number of jobs created in this decade that will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher is predicted to be nearly 5 million, the number of jobs predicted to be created requiring some college/no degree or less is nearly 13 million.

So if the key to employment (and financial) security for the average worker is a Bachelor’s degree, but the greatest numbers of jobs being created in the next decade won’t require a Bachelor’s degree, how do we reconcile this as employers?

Do we hire college educated workers for jobs that only require a high school diploma?  Are we already doing that now?

Do we work to raise the general level of worker education because we believe it’s the key to global competitiveness?

Do we encourage students to enroll in career and technical education programs in and after high school rather than college because those are the skills needed in the economy?

The data around employers having difficulty finding the talent/skills they need isn’t as simple as it looks.  It’s actually quite challenging.  Under every layer of data is another layer of data.  Solving our talent attraction and acquisition needs won’t be solved with one tactic. But it’s a safe bet that solving our talent challenges will include strengthening relationships between employers and the education infrastructure to produce the skills our economy really needs.

As I look at the data, the optimist in me says we’re covered over in opportunity.  The realist in me says we’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time in which to do it.

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, HR, Post-secondary education, SHRM, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point # 10: The Unemployment Rate Went Down? Really?

There is no irony in data.  Except if you put two graphs side by side that tell the same but different story.

The April employment data was released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, which, of course, is part of the U.S. Federal Government.  The BLS paired these two graphs together.  Chart 1 shows the civilian labor force unemployment rate from April 2010 through April 2012.  Chart 2 shows the growth (or not) of nonfarm payroll employment in the same time frame.

Given this data, it’s a little hard to understand why  the unemployment rate went down .1 point to 8.1% during a month when far fewer jobs were created than in the previous 6 months.

During the slow crawl out of the Recession, many economists and pundits positioned that for the unemployment rate to hold steady month over month, a minimum of 150,000 new jobs would need to be created in that month.  And yet the data show that in a month when only 115,000 new jobs were created and the number of employed people was down 169,000, the unemployment rate still went down.  How does that math work?

Here’s the chart that makes sense of it all direct from the BLS Employment Situation Report:

The civilian labor force actually decreased from March to April by 342,000; the number of employed people decreased 169,000; the number of unemployed people (still looking for work) dropped by 173,000; and the number of people not in the labor force grew by 522,000.  What we can’t tell is how many of the unemployed became discouraged and stopped looking for work.  They drop out of all calculations.

If we do the math, the lower unemployment rates over the last several months are not the result of job growth, but rather a shrinking civilian labor force and a decrease in the labor force participation rate.

While the numbers of the unemployed – that’s people unemployed and actively looking for work – appear to be shrinking, the numbers of people “not in the labor force” is growing.  And growing rapidly – by nearly 3 million in the last year alone.  We can’t tell from this data whether the rapidly growing number of people not in the labor force are Baby Boomers retiring (that wouldn’t be totally unexpected) or more discouraged unemployed people dropping out of the job search.  But it’s a safe bet that it isn’t entirely people – Boomers or otherwise – voluntarily leaving the workforce.

So.  The number of discouraged unemployed workers grows at the same time the number of participants in the labor force is decreasing.  And that results in a lower unemployment rate.  Maybe data is ironic after all.

How’s this scenario?  What happens when the economy and the job market really improve and the discouraged unemployed workers re-enter the job market?  Under this math, the unemployment rate could very well go up.  The more workers are in the workforce — either employed or actively looking for work — the higher the number of jobs we’ll need to create to keep the unemployment percentage even.

Bottom line:  the lowering unemployment rate isn’t about more workers going back to work at all.  It’s about more workers leaving the economy.  Really.

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Demographics, Employment Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate