Folks are still discouraged about the economy … here’s why.

It has been a while since we looked into the employment numbers … long overdue.

I was awakened by a WSJ article that put a positive spin on the November jobs report – jobs continue to be added …. and, they’re full-time jobs:

“The economy has seen a net gain of more than 6 million full-time jobs since the official end date of the 2007-09 recession, which was in June 2009. The economy has witnessed a net increase of just 311,000 part-time jobs over the same period,”



Let’s dig a little deeper.

What the Journal says is true, but not complete … and picking to start the chart at the trough of the recession obscures some of the context.


Let’s go back to the economy right before the recession … you know, the “old normal”…


The civilian labor force – which has been declining as a fraction of the working age population — increased about 4 million since early 2008.



Full-time employment today is about 2 million below the same starting point.

Putting those 2 series together, about 80% of the labor force had full-time jobs before the recession … about 76% do now.

That 4% dip might not seem like a big deal … unless you’re in that 4%, of course.



Part-time employment surged about 3 million during the recession.

An increase in part-time employment is common in a recession.

What’s uncommon is that part-time employment usually falls back after a recession as companies restock with full-timers.

That didn’t happen this time … what the Journal says is true: part-time employment has stayed level since the recession.

What the article overlooks is that the recessionary part-time spike didn’t readjust … it stayed at the increased level.

Why?  Hint: ObamaCare.



Finally, unemployment – expressed in numbers of people, not the usual percentage  — is still 2 million higher than before the recession.



Let’s recap:

Compared to where the economy was before the recession …

  • The civilian labor force is up by 4 million
  • Part-time employment is up by 3 million.
  • Full-time employment is still down by 2 million.
  • The percentage of the labor force working full-time has dropped 4 percentage points.
  • The number of unemployed is up 2 million.

So, the picture may be improving, but it’s still not good … especially if you compare to where we were before the crash.

That’s the comparison that most folks make – not from the bottom of the recession — and why they’re still discouraged about the economy.



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