Friday, January 9, 2015

Unemployment down, participation rate too

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published the new Employment Situation Summary. The unemployment rate is down to 5.6%, and again (like in November 2014) more than 200K (252K in December, in fact) jobs were created (as I noted here a healthy recovery should create more or less double that number). But, at the same time, labor force participation rate edged down by 0.2%, and the employment to population ratio remained constant. The number of employed workers increased by a bit more than 110K, so now the rate of unemployment is falling both because some additional workers find jobs, but also as a result of less workers in the labor force. Not terrible, not good enough. My concern is that as we edge towards what the mainstream believes is full employment (aka the natural rate), somewhere closer to 5.2% or so, the pressure for less stimulative monetary policy (fiscal is a lost case right now) will increase.

PS: Note that average hourly earnings decreased a little bit. So no indication that we are close to full employment and wages are going up.

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