Reclaiming Common Sense

The March Jobs Report was not as good as expected or projected. It was better than March 2017. That is not receiving any attention. This was the best first fourteen months under  a President since President Reagan. That is not receiving any attention. Weekly wages were up for all sectors at a rate of 2.4% to 4.2% annually, depending on sector. This was not reported. Good news does not garner headlines. There are many more ways to explore the data. One way is the level of multiple job workers. It was thought that it was a "good thing" by some people to have workers have flexibility by working multiple part-time jobs. Anybody who knows the multiple job situation knows that flexibility and multiple jobs is an oxymoronic situation. Last year there were multiple months where multiple job holder records were set. People can work two full-time jobs (FT FT,) two or more part-time jobs (PT PT,) a primary full-time jobs and secondary part-time job (FT PT,) or a "primary" part-time job and secondary full-time job (PT FT.) The total multiple job holder data is found in table A-9. The historical data for total, FT FT, FT PT, and PT PT  is found on the FRED economic data website. The value for PT FT workers is calculated from the other four data sets.


We saw a drop to fewer than  8 million people working multiple jobs. It was projected that we should have seen a jump in MJH workers when the forecast article was published. It is possible that we received a huge jump in workers and jobs during February that effectively "front-loaded" this month's data.  We do have a higher level of March workers working multiple jobs than we saw between 2008 and 2016. Were some part-time jobs converted to fewer full-time jobs?


The Number of People working a full-time job and a part-time job was the second most for the month of March. There were over 4.5 million people working a primary full-time job and a secondary part-time jobs (FT PT) during the month of March. This was second only to March of 1996. These multiple job worker levels are helping keep the unemployment claims data low because when someone loses one of their multiple jobs they still have another job (or two.) They are not unemployed, they are lesser employed, and there is no lesser employed insurance other than having multiple jobs. The point is being made because we are seeing levels of U-3 unemployment comparable to what we saw during the late 1990s and we are seeing levels of multiple job holders comparable to the late 1990s.


There was a near record level of people working two part-time jobs this March. We had more than two million workers working two part-time jobs for only the third time ever recorded during the month of March. Flexibility. The question that needs to be asked is "do multiple part-time jobs drag down the weekly paychecks and how much? The weekly wage article yesterday revealed that Leisure and Hospitality (LAH) workers work the fewest average weekly hours. Are they working multiple jobs in the same sector?  The sector data is available through the CES (Current Employment Statistics)  data and the part-time full-time data is available through the CPS (Current Population Survey) data.


There were over 300,000 people working two full-time jobs this past March. This is interesting because this is higher than last year and the highest since March 2007. We know that the participation rate is still near historic lows for the modern times, post 1980. We know that participation is calculated by  adding the number of full-time  jobs, part-time jobs, and unemployed workers and dividing that by the workforce population. We also know that there are people who are neither working jobs nor unemployed. Are multiple job holders "taking" jobs from these "non-participants?" Can companies create enough jobs to get these non-participants back to the workforce? Will rising wages spur people back to the jobs market?


The multiple job worker data tends to head higher May through July and October through December. We tend to see improvement in the jobs level through July and August and improvement in the unemployment numbers through the end of September. All of these items reinforce each other. More jobs tend to mean fewer unemployed workers. More jobs tend to mean more people working multiple jobs. More people working multiple jobs, especially multiple part-time jobs, mean that fewer people will qualify for unemployment benefits. We set record low levels of first-time unemployment claims every week of February this year. We are already experiencing first-time unemployment claims data during February and March that we normally only see during the final weeks of September.  The "Jobs Iceberg" has melted. We have both more full-time jobs and more part-time jobs than we had during July 2007. We had fewer FT jobs during January 2017 than when had during July 2007, nearly a decade earlier. Will we see more full-time jobs and fewer multiple job holders as the economy continues to accelerate? If jobs are improving and multiple job worker numbers are lower then more workers are winning. If FT jobs are up and part-time jobs are down, compared to last March, then people are doing better. If weekly wages are growing and of workers are growing then the economy is growing, retail sales should grow, home sales should grow, revenue to the government should improve.


The March Jobs Report was unloved.So far this column has written four articles on the data: The Analysis article, the Five Presidents article, the Wages article, and this multiple Job Worker Article.  There are many ways to examine the data.  The Devil is in the Data - the non-seasonally adjusted data.


It's the economy.