A View of 2017 through Jobs
Published on January 8th, 2018
“Fake news” became a standard line in 2017, and it’s not surprising when looking at how news is reported now. It’s certainly taken unexpected turns and twists since my days in journalism school. How job growth/the unemployment picture is spun provides a good example.
The December 2017 jobs report came out last week, with, of course, the calendar year numbers. The first story I pulled up online was from CNN Money and headed “U.S. economy added 2 million jobs in 2017” – pretty much a statement without any context of that being a lot of jobs or not, and whether up or down from the prior year(s). So maybe someone with average understanding of the lay of the land reads it and thinks, sounds good – sounds like a lot. Maybe someone who has a deeper understanding may know that’s not a lot of job growth.
Read on, and the subhead states, “The job market may be the only thing hotter than the stock market.”
Okay, now CNN has put a stake in the ground. The jobs market was booming in 2017!
Well, hold on, in the video clip accompanying the story a graph shows job creation for each of the years from 2014 to 2017. Every year since 2014 has shown a steady decline. The 2014 jobs creation number was nearly a million more than this year. And our population has continued increasing, from 319 million in 2014 to 325 million in 2017.
Then there’s the reported unemployment rate, which was 4.1 percent. This number, while perhaps useful as reference, doesn’t really tell the whole story. The real unemployment rate, an alternative measure of unemployment that counts discouraged workers and those working part time for economic reasons, was 8.1 percent. Then there’s the labor force participation rate, a measure of how many people are available to work as a percent of the total population. It remains at a low 62.7 percent from a peak in 2000. And those not in the workforce (over age 16) total about 95 million.
There’s a lot of data to digest, and it can take reading or viewing several accounts to develop some understanding, certainly with the extra burden of trying to sift through the spin.
Add to the varied spin from media outlets the White House spin. When President Trump was candidate Trump, he talked about how far off reported unemployment numbers were from reality, saying he thought the numbers were much, much higher. Yet, soon into his office, he jumped on the monthly jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (which hasn’t changed its methodology) as proof of success of his administration getting America back to work.
Looking just at December, only 148,000 jobs were added versus an expected 190,000, and the retail sector lost jobs, even given the holiday season when hiring would be expected to be up. Gains were in health care, construction and manufacturing. A number which is 50,000 off of expectations sounds bad. Factor in that the BLS often revises numbers down in successive months.
Unlikely you’ll hear it from the majority of media, but a 2 million number is a wash with the number of illegal and legal workers we’re importing. Looking at declining job creation for the past few years should lead to one conclusion. Employment markets need to be tightened by lowering immigration and cutting worker visas. That’s one thing on which candidate Trump and President Trump is consistent.