Me old mate Heidi Shierholz has a neat table showing the ratio of unemployment rates from today’s report to those of 2007. What I found revealing was the absence of an obvious pattern among the jobless ratios across age, occupation, education, race, and so on. That suggests, as Heidi underscores, that it’s pervasive weak demand, not skills shortages driving the jobless rate. If the latter were as big a deal as some people say, you’d see lower ratios among more highly educated workers and differences between higher pay/skilled occupations and lower ones.
While Heidi correctly notes that overall average wage growth has been flat, over at the NYT Economix blog I point out that if you look at middle-wage workers, there’s a bit of an acceleration going on. At the same time, inflation is decelerating. Inflation hawks: draw in your talons. This wage trend is a good one that should be nurtured, not stomped on!
Dean Baker notes this trend as well, and, getting back to the false skills shortage claims, points out that “…less educated workers seem to be doing somewhat better in the current economy, the opposite of the skills shortage view…” (BTW, these observations should not be taken to imply that every employer everywhere can immediately find the worker they seek at the wage they want to pay…but re that, see this.)
The White House has two neat charts showing weather impacts. As I suggested earlier, the tick down in average weekly hours looks to be a function of a lot of weather-related work-schedule disruptions. (They’ve also got an interesting look at what they call volatility of monthly job gains or losses, and tout positively its low level…hmmm…I’m not sure why this doesn’t just confirm we’re slogging along with steady but only moderate employment gains. Plot this metric over history and it’s consistently higher in expansions with strong job growth. And I think most of us would trade-off higher variance for larger average gains.)
Finally, my CBPP colleague Chad Stone importantly emphasizes the persistence of elevated long-term unemployment even as Congress has allowed extended benefits to elapse:
Long-term unemployment remains a significant concern. Nearly four of every ten (37.0 percent) of the 10.5 million people who are unemployed — 3.8 million people — have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. That’s a jump of 203,000 in February. These long-term unemployed represent 2.5 percent of the labor force. Before this recession, the previous highs for these statistics over the past six decades were 26.0 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, in June 1983, early in the recovery from the 1981-82 recession. By the end of the first year of the recovery from that recession, however, the long-term unemployment rate had dropped below 2 percent.