The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy

13th July 2019 Off By binary
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(This post first appeared on my Patreon page.)

The June jobs report showed the economy created 224,000 jobs in the month, a sharp increase from the revised level of 72,000 reported for May. With considerable evidence that the economy is slowing, and the ADP report showing the economy created just 102,000 jobs in June, the jobs growth number from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was much higher than most analysts had expected.

It led the markets to reverse their expectations of a July cut in the federal funds rate. With average job growth of 171,000 over the last three months, the thinking was that the Fed did not need to provide any additional boost to growth. A bit deeper look suggests that additional stimulus may still be a good idea.

First, it is important to remember where the labor market is. The June unemployment rate of 3.7 percent certainly looks very good relative to almost any other point in the last fifty years.

However, if we look at employment rates (EPOP) for prime age workers (ages 25 to 54), the labor market does not look so great. The June EPOP was 79.7 percent. That is down from a pre-recession peak of 80.3 percent. It is far below the 2000 peak of 81.9 percent. It’s even down from the 79.9 percent peak for the recovery hit in January and February of this year.

The weak EPOP suggests that the economy has room to expand. There have been repeated efforts throughout this recovery to attribute low EPOPs to workers’ reduced interest in working, primarily among young men. This story does not work well for two reasons.

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