Reclaiming Common Sense

Our Older Workforce Population is Participating. We have a lower participation rate for those 30 to 54 years of age than we had during 2005. We have a lower participation rate for those 16 to 54 years of age than we had during March 2008. Another way of stating this is that participation is up for those over the age of 55 since March 2005. This column has speculated that some of the people who might have retired during 2001 kept working after the "DotCom Crash" of 2001. Some of these people may have been thinking of retiring during 2007 or 2008, only to see the value of their investments drop dramatically. Is the unemployment rate for teenagers that low or is it down because overall participation is down? People who are employed or unemployed are participants. The participation rate is a factor of participants and population. There are fewer employed teenagers now than during march 2005. There are fewer unemployed teenage workers than during 2005. Their population is comparable. Yes, their unemployment rate is down, so is their participation rate. We want to see low unemployment rates and higher levels, and rates, of employment.

Entire articles could be written on the changes month to month and year to year for each of the age groups and each class of worker, employed, unemployed, participating or not. The economy is improving. Jobs are up. Unemployment is down. Some age groups are doing better than others. Men did better this past month than women did. Women are still doing better than men for job creation since the recession. Men work more full-time jobs than women do. Women work more part-time jobs than men do. Some sectors are seeing higher levels of hiring. Some sectors are seeing higher levels of wages and larger wage growth.  This was an unloved jobs report because it wasn't "easy" to digest. The economy is doing well. The reporting on the data is not going so well in some parts of the media.

It's the economy.

eThe March Current Employment Statistics data was up for almost age groups compared to Last March. We saw a slight drop March to March for teenagers, and those 50-59 years of age. We set an all-time high for employment for those 30-39 years of age for those 60-64 years old, and for those 75 years of age and older.  We set a March record for employment for those 70-74 years of age and 35 -39 year olds, as well as 20-24 year olds. The decline in workforce participation rates were blamed on our graying workforce and on baby Boomers retiring. Record, or near record,  levels of workers over the age of 60 tells a different story. So does the declining number of workers 50-54 years of age, and 40-44 years of age, since 2013 and 2014.

The March Jobs report, also known as the Employment Situation Report, was was not received very well when it was released the first Friday of this month.

  • The March jobs report was a "disappointment" after a huge February Jobs Report. What was missing in the conversation, as a whole, was that the "March Job was Better than March 2017." Jobs were up. Workers were up. Unemployment was down.
  • The record first year of Job growth for President Trump has been extended another month. "Five Presidents at 14 Months" detailed how President Trump has added more full-time jobs than any other President since and including President Reagan. Yes, the economy is larger now than under prior Presidents. What is missing here is that the gains that President Clinton made were part-time jobs versus president Trump's full-time job creation. His participation rate would be improving more than reported if the powers that be had not revised the workforce population number up this year.
  • There have been concerns that wages have not kept up with inflation. "Shh. Wages are rising" broke down the weekly wages by super sector and found that depending on your sector you may have seen your weekly wages increase by 2.17% to 6.27% over what you were being paid last March.
  • We saw a large drop in the number of people working multiple jobs from March 2017 to March 2018. "March Multiple Job Workers Step Back" identified a drop in people working two part-time jobs and a slight uptick in the number of people working two full-time jobs compared to March 2017.
  • Ten Sectors out of eleven sectors had more workers this March than last March. The only sector that saw a decline was the information technology sector.
  • One of the many ignored stories has been the difficulty men have had in recovering the full-time jobs that they lost during the Great Recession. Women lost fewer full-time jobs, recovered them faster than men did, and have been adding to their full-time jobs numbers since 2015.  "Men Marching back to Full-time Jobs" tells the story how men are back over their July 2007 level of full-time jobs earlier this year than last year.

There has been consideration given to the "plight" of teenagers in today's jobs market.  The unemployment rate is "low" for teenagers. Legislatures are trying to increase employment levels in some industries by lifting or changing age requirements for some sectors.  What is the full story? Let's look at employment levels, unemployment levels, and population levels by age group.

Unemployment has been falling since 2011 - That held true for most age groups during March. We did see March to March increases in unemployment levels for those 60-64 years of age and for those 75 and older. It is interesting to note that there are more unemployed workers over the age of 55 now than during 2005, 2006 and 2007. You will note that the level of unemployed workers for teenagers is the lowest it has been since 2005.

Our Workforce Population is Aging. Our workforce, on the low end of the age range, has been shrinking. Note the 20-24 year old range has been contracting since 2014.  Also note that the age groups between 45 and 49 and 50 and 54 years of age are down compared to March 2008. Some of this is due to an "age shift" that happens every five years. People who were 40-44 years of age during 2008 were 45-49 years of age during 2013, and are now 50-54 years of age now. Some of this may be because people gave up looking for work during the Great Recession. Note the drop in those 50-54, 55-59, and 60-64 years of age over the past two March reports. Also note the record levels of people over 60 years of age who are still in the workforce population. These age groups also have record levels of workers. The perception that are workforce is aging is correct, the perception that participation is falling because Baby Boomers are retiring appears to be misguided.