May 2, 2008

The April Employment Report

ADP, for what it’s worth, came in at +10,000 on Wednesday.

The consensus estimate of economists, per this Bloomberg link, written almost as if after-the-fact, is -75,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rising to 5.2%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report is here, and opens as follows:

Nonfarm payroll employment was little changed in April (-20,000), following job losses that totaled 240,000 in the first 3 months of the year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The unemployment rate, at 5.0 percent, also was little changed in April. Employment continued to decline in construction, manufacturing, and retail trade, while jobs were added in health care and in professional and technical services.

OK, the headline-making stuff beat expectations by quite a bit, with the unemployment rate going down.

Aside: Seriously, Old Media (and I’m talking to YOU, AP reporters Martin Crutsinger, Jeannine ["It’s no longer a question of recession or not. Now it’s how deep and how long"] Aversa, Ann D’Innocenzio, et al [links are to BizzyBlog searches on their names]), how can an economy with 5.0% unemployment (and falling) and decidedly non-stellar but positive growth, be in recession?

More to follow. …..

(slightly corrected from earlier this morning) The prior-month revisions were pretty small: March’s -80,000 was revised -1,000 to -81,000. February’s -76,000 was revised -7,000 to -83,000. The overall seasonally adjusted job loss was -28,000 (-20 – 1 – 7).

Some notable unemployment-rate changes (based on looking at data in the detailed tables):

  • African-Americans – down 0.4% from 9.0% to 8.6%, seasonally adjusted. The raw number (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) is 8.2%, down from 9.0%.
  • All Teenagers – down 0.4% to 15.4%, seasonally adjusted (down 2.6% in 3 months). Not seasonally adjusted, it went down 0.5% to 15.0% (down 3.2% in the three months).
  • African-American teenagers – down 6.8% to 24.5%, seasonally adjusted (11.2% in 3 months). Not seasonally adjusted, it went down 8.0% to 23.3%. Those figures are near historic lows.

It seems reasonable to believe that these three sets of stats indicate some substitution of less-skilled labor for illegal immigrants who were supposedly “doing jobs citizens won’t do,” but may be finding it tougher to find under-the-table work (or “legal” work that requires stealing someone’s identity or Social Security number-sharing for an illegal to obtain).

A look at the big-picture “raw numbers” — Since I went down this road last month (and ripped into related business coverage), I’d better keep on traveling it.

Remember that all the verbiage you’ll see today about this or that industry “losing jobs” refers to the seasonally adjusted numbers reported by the BLS. Here is what actually happened on the not-seasonally-adjusted ground:


BLS’s best estimate is that 703,000 more real people were actually working at real jobs in April than were in March, and that 1,810,000 more were really doing so in April than in January.

While not as high as 2006 or 2007, and not as high as one would like to see, April’s increase is much closer to the previous two Aprils (within 157,000, on average) than January’s decrease or February’s and March’s increases were to their comparable 2006 and 2007 figures (all three averages were well over 250,000 than 2008). Much more improvement is needed, but some improvement did occur during April.

Here are just a few of a the real-world job-change numbers for April:
- Construction — up 114,000.
- Manufacturing — down 29,000.
- Trade, transportation, and utilities — up 34,000.
- Retail — up 7,400.
- Financial activities — up 12,000.
- Professional and business services — up 203,000.
- Government — down 3,000.

That government number, and the ones for the preceding months, make me question something from earlier this week about ballooning government employment that I’m going to have to find. Update: There has been a revision (today’s) since the USA Today article about government hiring, but as far as I can tell, they got it right (i.e., they used the NOT seasonally adjusted numbers). Update 2: They got the government part right, but the private sector part wrong, using the seasonally adjusted numbers to tell us of 286,000 private-sector jobs lost when there actually a lot more lost (due to January post-Christmas adjustments that occur every year.



  1. x 1000 Feb March April diff.
    Civilian labor force 153,374| 153,784| 153,957| 173
    Employment …….. 145,993| 145,969| 146,331| 362
    Unemployment ….. 7,381| 7,815| 7,626| -189
    Not in labor force .. 79,436| 79,211| 79,241| 30

    So what do the numbers say? The labor force grew by 173,000; the number of employed grew by 362,000; unemployment DROPPED by 189,000.

    Umm, how can we be in a recession when the numbers of people employed are growing? Isn’t a recession marked by DECREASING numbers of people working????? Let’s sit back and hear the MSM spin that one. My guess will be it has something to do with government hiring. Want to bet on it?

    Comment by dscott — May 2, 2008 @ 8:58 am

  2. BTW- what’s also interesting is the breakdown of the Not in Labor force:
    The annual change in those want work but not finding anything from April 2007 to April 2008 to date has fallen from: 4,729 (000) to 4,677(000) a decrease of 52,000. How is the economy getting worse in terms of job seekers? This despite the actual increase during the same period in those not in the workforce from 79,423(000) to 79,990(000) some 567,000 people who are most likely retirees. Looks to me that the Demographics and illegal self deportation is working in our favor.

    Comment by dscott — May 2, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  3. I found a nice reference on the Not in Labor Force:

    Just check the one that says “Persons who currently want a job”, it is preset to go back to 1998. Then having run the applet, reset it back to 1994 which is the earliest year, guess whose Administration was quite lackluster in getting people jobs????????

    Comment by dscott — May 2, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  4. I think you’re wrong. The media told me we are in a recession.

    Comment by Ben Keeler — May 2, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.