Friday, January 30, 2015

Jobs, Democrats and a look at the numbers

No doubt President Obama and the Democrats were wishing this morning that the first Friday of the month, when the jobs numbers come out from the Department of Labor, had occurred after the first Tuesday of the month, Election Day. Maybe a positive number like 150,000 jobs created, mostly by the private sector, would have pushed some of the swing voters into the Democratic camp.

Jobs, Democrats and a look at the numbers

No doubt President Obama and the Democrats were wishing this morning that the first Friday of the month, when the jobs numbers come out from the Department of Labor,  had occurred after the first Tuesday of the month, Election Day. Maybe a positive number like 150,000 jobs created, mostly by the private sector, would have pushed some of the swing voters into the Democratic camp.

Believe me, there's nothing wrong with 150,000 new jobs and it is especially heartening that the private sector created 154,000 of them -- not enough to offset the 8,000-job decline in government hiring. But I can't shake my feelings of discouragement as I write about these numbers month after month in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Let's just look at the top seven numbers in the report. You can click here to see my story online about today's news.

First of all, there's the civilian noninstitutional population. That means everyone of working age that is not in the military or in jail. That number went up by 208,000 to 238.5 million as the general population grew. 

Of them, just under two-thirds, or 153.9 million, are in the labor force, meaning they are either working, or trying to work (that's the second number).  So, assuming that the newbies want to work at about the same 64.5 percent rate (the third number), you can take two-thirds of 208,000, or about 138,000, rounding down. So you need 138,000 new jobs just to accommodate those 138,000 new people. That's the break-even point. And by the way, the two-thirds participation rate, as the third number is called, is low, a sign that people of working age just don't see enough action in the job market to get involved. Maybe they are staying in school longer, maybe they are on public assistance, maybe they are able to stay home with their young children. Maybe they retired early. Maybe they've just given up.

So, as you can see, we need 138,000 jobs just to break even, and we have 151,000 jobs created this month. Fabulous, we have 13,000 extra jobs and 14.8 million unemployed people ( the sixth number). If you take the ratio of unemployed people to the entire labor force of 153.9 million, you have the seventh number in the report -- the official unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, which has not moved in three months.

The number of employed people has declined by 330,000 to 139.1 million. That's the fourth number. The ratio of employed people to the civilian noninstitutional population is also down to 58.3 percent -- statistic five. See what I mean about being depressed? Imagine how the Democrats feel, since it is now their turn to feel the blame. And guess what? Starting in January, it will be everybody's fault.

To review: 

Top line: Civilian noninstitutional population: 238,530,000 up to 208,000

2. Civilian labor force: 153,904,000 down 254,000

3. Percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population in the labor force, whether or not they have jobs: 64.5 percent, down .2 percent.

4. The number of people employed, 139,061,000, down 330,000

5. The ratio of employed people to the civilian noninstitutional population: 58.3 percent, down .2 percent.

6. Number of unemployed people: 14,843,000, up 76,000

7. Proportion of unemployed in the labor force: 9.6 percent, flat.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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