Unemployment May Be Shrinking But So Is The Labor Force

The US unemployment rate plunged last month from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent, the lowest it has been since September 2008 when it was 6.1 percent. Economists had generally expected the rate to only decline from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent.

On its face, it appears this report is indicative of a booming US economy. But, as they say, the devil is in the details and, in this case, the details are simply bad news. The sharp drop occurred because the number of people working or seeking work fell. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count people not looking for a job as unemployed.

The U.S. labor-force participation rate sank to 62.8 percent in April from 63.2 percent in March to match a 35-year low. Some 806,000 people dropped out of the labor force.

Despite the unemployment rate plummeting, more than 92 million Americans remain out of the labor force. The amount of Americans (not seasonally adjusted) not in the labor force in April rose to 92,594,000, almost 1 million more than the previous month. In March, 91,630,000 Americans were not in the labor force.

Within that overall number, the number of women, 16 and older, not in the labor force climbed to a record high of 55,116,000 in April. This means there were 55,116,000 women, 16 and older, who were in the civilian, non-institutional population who not only did not have a job, they did not actively seek one in the last four weeks. That is up 428,000 from the 54,688,000 women who were not in the labor force in March.
A number of economists look past the “main” unemployment rate to a different figure the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “U-6,” which it defines as “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.”

In other words, the unemployed, the underemployed and the discouraged. The U-6 rate in April was 12.3 percent, a rate that remains high.

The jobs numbers weren’t the only statistic that fell short of expectations today. The Commerce Department reported this morning that new orders for manufactured goods increased 1.1 percent in March. A consensus of economists had forecast new orders received by factories advancing 1.4 percent. In other words, the actual numbers fell significantly short of expectations. Moreover, February’s orders were revised downward to show a 1.5 percent rise instead of the previously reported 1.6 percent gain.

Source: Swiss America