Dean Baker’s Summary of the 2016 July Jobs Report

Dean Baker on 2016 July Jobs ReportThe Labor Department reported the economy added 255,000 jobs in July. With the June number revised up to 292,000, the average for the last three months now stands at 190,000. The household survey also showed a positive picture, with employment rising by 420,000. With new people entering the labor force, the employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) edged up by 0.1 percentage point to 59.7 percent, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent…

Other news in the establishment survey was also positive. The length of the average workweek edged up by 0.1 hours leading to an increase in the index of aggregate weekly hours of 0.5 percent. There also is some evidence of more rapid wage growth. The year-over-year increase in the average hourly wage was 2.6 percent. The annual rate comparing the average for the last three months with the prior three months was 2.8 percent. If this continues, workers will be able to get back some of the share lost to profits in the downturn.

While the household survey is mostly positive, there are some aspects that continue to suggest labor market weakness. The duration measures of unemployment all increased in July, with the average duration of unemployment spells rising from 27.7 weeks to 28.1 weeks and the median from 10.3 weeks to 11.6 weeks. These durations are more consistent with a recession than a strong labor market.

Similarly, the number of people involuntarily working part-time rose slightly to 5.94 million. This followed a sharp drop in June, but it is nonetheless quite high for a labor market with an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. Also, the percentage of unemployment due to voluntary job leavers remained at 10.7 percent. This compares with peaks of more than 12.0 percent before the recession and over 15.0 percent back in 2000.

One interesting note is that the least educated workers appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of recent job growth. The EPOP ratio for workers without high school degrees rose by 2.1 percentage points for the month and is 1.6 percentage points above its year ago level. The unemployment rate for this group is 1.9 percentage points below the year ago level. By contrast, the EPOP ratio for college grads is down by 0.5 percentage points from its year ago level while the unemployment rate is unchanged. The unemployment rate for workers with just a high school degree fell by 0.5 percentage points over the last year.

One positive item in this report is a sharp drop in black teen unemployment from 31.2 percent to 25.7 percent. These data are highly erratic, but the June level was a sharp reported rise from a low of 23.3 percent in February.

This is mostly a very positive report. In addition to the strong growth in jobs in the establishment survey, the household survey also showed a large jump in employment. The increase in hours, coupled with some evidence of more rapid wage growth, add to the positive picture. The labor market still has some way to go to fully recover, but it is making progress.

—Dean Baker
Employment Again Rises Sharply in July

Greased Pig Chases Aren’t Allowed! Except They Are

Greased Pig ChaseI understand that the feeling of outrage is delicious. We all need to get our anger out and there’s nothing so great as righteous outrage. But like anything, a little of something can be good where a lot can be bad. Think: water. It is because of this push towards outrage that I often find myself on the receiving end of stories like, “Did you know that Target forbids their employees from saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to their customers?!”

Statements like these would have set me off… when I was 13 years old. But over the past 40 years I’ve learned a few things. One is that these stories are often not true. For example, Target never told its employees to stop using the word “Christmas.” So when I hear something along these lines, I usually sigh and assume it isn’t true. But another thing I’ve learned is that when the story is true, it is almost always way more complicated and nuanced than claimed.

No Greased Pig Chases!

This brings me to Wednesday. My father has a regular lunch date with his friends on Tuesday. And so my father told me something he learned from his friends: the Sonoma County Fair had canceled the greased pig chase. This is where a pig is smeared with grease and children run around and try to catch it. According to the experts at the luncheon, it was canceled because someone thought it was cruel to the pig.

Sigh.

Learning this put me in a difficult position. First, I was pretty sure the story wasn’t true. Second, I do think it’s cruel to the little pig. I know I wouldn’t want a bunch of five year old kids running around trying to catch me. But given other things we do to pigs, a greased pig chase isn’t high on the list of cruelty. For example: burning pigs (don’t watch it). So I found it hard to believe that suddenly people were freaking out about greased pig chases.

Political Correctness — in 1971

But it is true that people do care about the issue. Greased pig chases (and related activities) are illegal in Minnesota. But this isn’t the result of our political correct culture that has gotten such a boost from Donald Trump. That law was passed in 1971. Is that the case in California? No.

I went online and found Free Family Fun at the Sonoma County Fair. And there on the 24th of July was, “Catch a greased pig on Farmers Day.” Maybe if a single man at the luncheon actually cared about greased pig chases, they would have known this. But I doubt anyone at the luncheon had ever participated in such an event — or even seen one outside a movie.

Growing Old Sucks; Grow Up!

But they were all only too happy to grouse about the fact that the America they knew is being destroyed. Of course, it isn’t an America that they ever knew. It’s just an excuse to bitch: kids today don’t get the joy of doing what the vast majority of children never did in the past. But as I noted: it’s understandable.

I can see as one grows older, one naturally feels that their culture is dying. That’s because it is. But it isn’t because liberals like me are murdering it; it’s just the way the world works. Poor children learn that rich children get more ice cream. The universe isn’t fair. Why can’t old people learn that the culture leaves them behind?

But barring that, they could at least find real things to complain about.