Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Aug. 11, 12 or 13
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on August 1 released its July jobs report, which noted that employers said they’d added 209,000 new jobs, between public-sector and private-sector positions.
By the end of trading on Monday – with the weekend to dive into the data – the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 75.91, to 16569.28, and the S&P finished up 13.84, to 1938.99, both after the previous down week.
So Wall Street was pleased.
The official unemployment rate stayed about the same last month: 6.2 percent, BLS added, so the number of jobless Americans remained about 6.2 million people, delighting Dems.
And, “However …”
The official jobless rate doesn’t include millions of folks who left the job search out of hopelessness.
They don’t count, the government says.
At least, they don’t count in that 6.2 percent figure.
An adjusted unemployment figure, one taking into account other fellow workers, is more revealing.
BLS’ seasonally adjusted “U-6” data shows a fuller picture.
The bureau’s U-6 tally includes total unemployed citizens plus “all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part-time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”
The U-6 number for July was 12.2 percent. Since the civilian labor force is 156,023,000 people, the expanded and adjusted percentage means that 19,034,806 are jobless, work part-time for financial reasons, and people “marginally attached to the labor force” – those who wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but weren’t counted as unemployed because they hadn’t actively sought work in the last month.
That’s almost twice as many as the “officially” jobless (9,673,426 people).
Of course, an ardent Obama advocate could legitimately find good news: The 12.1 percent is down 1.7 percent from July of last year.
But even there, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich warns that two-thirds of the new jobs are part-time.
True, there have been hundreds of thousands of working people who have voluntarily started working part-time, according to economist Dean Baker from the Center for Economic Policy and Research. He sees that phenomenon as occasionally a positive – reflecting an opportunity to go part-time if it’s an option enabled by the Affordable Care Act (because workers no longer need to have health insurance provided as part of their employment compensation).
In other words, maybe some folks don’t need to stay full-time just for the insurance, want more hours for themselves and their families, and can afford the change, Baker said.
Nevertheless, last month, Fortune magazine finance reporter Chris Matthews wrote that the number of people working part-time who’d prefer to work full-time went up by 275,000.
Also, the number of formerly “discouraged” workers (defined by the BLS as folks not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify) may be dwindling, Matthews said.
However the jobs-report merriment proceeds, millions of our neighbors still aren’t finding the full-time work they want, or they’ve given up on a job search.
Some of that is probably due to lagging progress in some sectors, such as construction, which is still not rebounding as much as the busy summer building season would seem to warrant; to fewer Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and ’64) retiring or retiring early; or to the terrible experience of unsuccessfully seeking a job for months or even years and just surrendering.
Regardless, that should sober up stockbrokers and Obama allies with blinders on.
[PICTURED: Cartoon by John Darkow.]