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Some Deep Thoughts on the Jobs Report


A deeper dive into the September unemployment report reveals some things about jobs, education, and debt in this economy.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL I know there have been a bazillion posts written on the September jobs report. Well, now we can say there are a bazillion and one, but I don't think any of them are going to be like this one. And that is completely intentional.

First, let me just say this report wasn't fudged. Period.

The 873,000 increase in employment from the household survey has been the most widely cited statistic as proof that the numbers are fudged because nobody can believe the economy is growing that fast. After some exhaustive, thorough analysis (i.e. flipping a page or two), you'll see the biggest reasons this number was so high were: 1) the number of temporary workers that didn't lose their jobs shrank (to the tune of 468,000), and 2) the number of people working part-time for economic reasons increased by 582,000.

So this report was a celebration of the fact that temp workers weren't tossed out on their collective behinds, and that more people were actually able to find a part-time job even though what they really want is a full-time job. But plenty of people despised the report.

But that's not the main thrust of this post. I want to take a look at something different, something more structural in nature. To do that, let's look at this first chart. It's a chart that just calculates the spread in unemployment rates between college graduates and those that didn't finish high school. Unfortunately the data only goes back to 1992 so we can't see what this spread was before the dot-com era.

At any rate, you can see the recession and the recovery haven't treated these groups equally.

But now let's take a look at wages. One of the longest data series the BLS has is the average weekly earnings of production and non-supervisory employees, so I used that. If we take a look at that series, we see year-over-year changes in weekly earnings have been largely range-bound. For almost 30 years:

If you focus on the past few years, wage growth has been falling for almost two years. But as the first chart shows, the college graduates are the ones who have been finding jobs in this economy. And we know the biggest contributors to job growth in the Establishment Survey have been health-care-related professions and other professional services sectors of the economy as well as temporary workers.
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