Friday, September 3, 2010

August Unemployment Numbers

Hiring The Department of Labor has released its August employment numbers and things seem to be somewhat mixed.  The unemployment rate moved up slightly to 9.6%, from 9.5%.  Overall, there was a loss of 54,000 jobs, but that was driven mainly by a loss of government (especially Census) jobs.  In contrast, there was an increase of 67,000 jobs in the private sector.  To help decipher these numbers, I'm going to quote part of a summary of the data done for an undergrad econ class by my favorite labor economist:

The bottom line is that there was little change, but slightly better than expected.  Based on the establishment level data, employment declined modestly [unemployment numbers can come from either household or establishment data; the household (CPS) data catches trends more quickly than the establishment data, but is also far more variable because of smaller sample size].   If one measured employment changes off the household survey (the CPS) rather than the larger establishment survey, the news was a bit more encouraging (an increase in employment of 290 thousand, but also an increase in the number of unemployed by 261 thousand, as more people moved into the labor force).  The CPS also showed a decrease in the number of long-term unemployed.  In short, there appears to be movement in the right direction, but at a rate far too slow to make up for the several million jobs lost during the recession.

-JH

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