A Brutal Jobs Market Gets A Little Better

The economy lost 345,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate now stands at 9.4% and a lot of people think that overall the news was good.

Most expected higher losses and the March and April number of lost jobs were revised to show fewer losses. April from -539,000 to -504,000 and March from -699,000 to -652,000. All government statistics are revised as more data is collected. Generally, towards the end of a recession you start to see positive revisions while at the beginning the adjustments tend to be negative. 

From the WSJ Real Time Economics Blog here is a sampling of Economists’ reactions:

The improvement was spread across most sectors with the notable exception of manufacturing, where the 156,000 drop was similar to April’s. But retail, construction and finance losses all slowed. What’s happening here is the end of the post-Lehman panic, which hugely accelerated the pace of losses. But it would be very dangerous to extrapolate this into absolute job gains; why would companies hire? Unemployment horrific, wage gains tanking. Less bad, yes; good, no. –Ian Shepherdson, High Frequency Economics

A case can be made that the economy is decaying at a slower rate in the second quarter but projecting out to a second half recovery still seems to be a stretch. The household data was weaker than the payroll series. House-hold employment was very weak with a 437,000 drop in employment and a 350,000 rise in the labor force, driving the civilian jobless rate up to 9.4%, 02.% above consensus expectations. –Steven Ricchiuto, Mizuho Securities

Other important employment metrics reveal some disturbing trends in the U.S. labor market. In particular, the aggregate number of hours worked declined by 0.7% from a month earlier, which suggests that even though employers may not be dismissing workers at the pace that they did a few month ago, they continue to reduce the number of hours they work. Additionally, with the bargaining power of workers continuing to wane in the face of the weak labor market conditions, the pace of wage gains is slowing to a crawl, with average hourly wages rising by only 0.1% from a month earlier, while on a yearly basis wages are up by only 3.1% — its slowest pace of increase since November 2005! Overall, this was unquestionably a favorable report as it suggests that the pattern of easing job losses has continued in May. –Millan L. B. Mulraine, TD Securities

The report — together with the latest data points from the weekly unemployment claims tally — is consistent with the notion that the pace of deterioration is slowing but we are still a long way from the point of stability in both the labor market and the broader economy. –David Greenlaw, Morgan Stanley

What can you say? Yes it’s better but this recession has brutally assaulted the jobs market. We might well see recovery with a chronically high unemployment rate. The old days of sub-5% unemployment may well be far behind.

more: here (NYT), here (Telegraph), and here (Labor Department)

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