The state of the economy in one killer chart …

This isn’t it !

This one was in the WSJ last week.

The accompanying narrative was something like “adding jobs – full-time, not part-time —  looking good”.

Earlier this week, we showed that the WSJ data is accurate, but it’s analysis is misleading because it starts analyzing from the depth of the recession (versus before the start of the recession) … and looks at raw numbers of jobs added (without normalizing for population growth).

Again, this isn’t the killer chart, I’m talking about.




Rather, I’ve pulled together my earlier analysis into one simple chart that tells the story …


The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis provides an online treasure trove of economic data.

Two series that it reports are “Usually Work Full-time” and “Working Age Population 16-64”.

Putting those two series together – expressing the first as a percentage of the second – tells the story.

This is the killer chart:


Before the recession, about 62% of the working age population usually worked full-time.

That number slid 6 points during the recession to a low of about 56%.

Since then,  the ratio  has bounced back to about 59%.

But still, 3% less of the working age population is usually working full-time … they’re either working part-time or not working at all.

My claim, people “benchmark” against how things are against how they used to be “the old normal” … and not against how things were in the worst of times.

And that is why so many folks are economically discouraged.

All said in one simple chart.



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