1. Jobless claims
Another week of glacial progress in initial jobless claims, at levels worse than the worst weekly levels of the Great Recession.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, new jobless claims fell by -40,263 to 786,942. After seasonal adjustment (which is far less important than usual at this time), claims fell by -36,000 to 837,000, another new pandemic low. The 4 week moving average also declined by -11,750 to a new pandemic low of 867,250:
Continuing claims declined on a non-adjusted basis declined by -1,020,192 to 11,410,703. With the seasonal adjustment, they declined by -950,000 to 11,767,000. Both of these numbers are also new pandemic lows:
If you think this is bad, then just wait until February 2021. By the time that Covid-19 became community spread it was already early spring. We have yet to see how this thing really works under the most adverse conditions.
Employers add 661,000 jobs in September; US unemployment rate falls to 7.9%
via @BostonGlobe – October 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers added 661,000 jobs in September, the third straight month of slower hiring and evidence from the final jobs report before the presidential election that the economic recovery has weakened.
With September’s hiring gain, the economy has recovered only slightly more than half the 22 million jobs that were wiped out by the viral pandemic. The nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-2009 Great Recession. By comparison with September, employers added nearly 1.5 million jobs in August, 1.8 million in July and 4.8 million in June.
The unemployment rate for September fell to 7.9 percent , down from 8.4 percent in August, the Labor Department said Friday. Since April, the jobless rate has tumbled from 14.7 percent . But last month’s drop in joblessness reflected largely a drop in the number of people seeking work, rather than a surge in hiring. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed if they aren’t actively looking for a job.
Including part-time workers who would prefer full-time work and people who have stopped looking for a job a broader measure of what is called under-employment was 12.8 percent in September, down from 14.2 percent in August.
Last month’s job gains appeared to reflect mainly temporarily laid-off workers who were recalled to their old jobs, continuing a trend in place since April, rather than people joining new employers. In a worrisome sign, the number of Americans who say their jobs are gone for good rose to 3.8 million from 3.4 million.
The September jobs report coincides with other data that suggests that while the economic picture may be improving, the gains have slowed since summer. The economy is under pressure from a range of threats. They include the expiration of federal aid programs that had fueled rehiring and sustained the economy — from a $600-a-week benefit for the unemployed to $500 billion in forgivable short-term loans to small businesses. …
(Half empty or half full?)
Strong Job Growth, a Terrible Job Market: The Bizarre 2020 Economy
NY Times – Neil Irwin – October 2
In a normal time, a month in which employers added 661,000 jobs would represent an absolute blockbuster — the kind of thing an incumbent president could happily promote as evidence his policies were working.
These are, of course, not normal times. And the 661,000 positions employers added to their payrolls in September are paltry relative to the 22 million positions slashed in March and April, and relative to the seven-figure monthly job growth experienced from May through August.
If the rate of September job creation outlined by the Labor Department on Friday were to be sustained indefinitely, it would take another 17 months for the economy be back to its pre-pandemic levels of employment. That milestone would be reached in only eight months at August’s rate of job creation.
To make sense of where the economy stands on the verge of the election, it’s essential to keep a clear view of the distinction between three concepts: the level at which the economy is functioning, how fast it is improving, and whether that speed is accelerating or decelerating. And in a shambolic year, it’s not totally clear which of these concepts will matter most to voters, or how heavily the state of the economy will weigh on them at all.
The first is the equivalent to the level of the water in a bathtub; the second is whether it is filling up or being drained; the third is whether the spigot is being opened wider or closed. For the United States economy in the fall of 2020, the three measures are sending different signals:
The level of the bath water is very low. But it’s being filled rapidly. However, the spigot is being tightened so the pace at which the water is rising has slowed.
The level of economic activity is miserable. Seven months into the pandemic, most sectors of the economy are producing below — and in some cases far below — normal levels. The number of jobs on employers’ payrolls was 7 percent below February levels in September, a worse shortfall than at any point in the Great Recession. The share of the population working is only 56.6 percent, down from 61 percent a year ago and lower than it ever got during that downturn and its aftermath.
So if voters were to evaluate the Trump economy solely on how things are going as the fall of 2020 begins, it would be a harsh judgment.
If, by contrast, they were to look at the direction of the economy, things look quite good. Again, that 661,000 net jobs added — the job growth was particularly strong in health care and the retail sector — represents stronger job growth than in all but a handful of months in the modern record. …
Women are leaving the workforce in droves
via @BostonGlobe – October 2
Four times more women than men dropped out of the workforce in September, according to economic data released Friday, affirming fears that women’s careers are collapsing under the pressures of caring for and educating children through a pandemic.
The latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 80 percent of the nearly 1.1 million workers who dropped out of the labor force in September were women. That’s 865,000 women, compared to 216,000 men.
The disparity, economists say, demonstrates that women are bearing the burden of child care responsibilities throughout the pandemic, as many surveys have suggested.
“You’ve been seeing smoke for a really long time and you finally see the fire,” said Michael Madowitz, an economist for the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
“This looks exactly like you would think this would look if there was going to be an unequal sharing of the extra child care burden.”
The data also suggest that pragmatic calculations are being done in households where women still often earn less than their spouses.
Although attitudes toward gender equality have improved, said Madowitz, the round-the-clock caregiving demands of the pandemic have forced many couples with dual incomes to choose just one: the better-paying one.
“Statistically speaking, that’s still more likely to be the male,” he said.
Multiple crises disproportionately affected women’s jobs during the pandemic, said Kate Bahn, director of Labor Market Policy for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which studies economic inequality.
In addition to maintaining their lead role in managing child care for their families — and stepping into the gap created when child care centers, schools, and camps closed — women are overrepresented in industries that were hit hard by shutdowns, such as hospitality and food service. And women dominate in fields where workers continue to be most at risk, such as health care, she said.
“All these things are layered on top of each other, putting women in a pretty impossible situation,” said Bahn.
The lost jobs revealed by the labor statistics reflect those who have stopped looking for work and no longer show up in unemployment rates. For women, unemployment rates have dropped since the spring, to 7.7 percent; the September rate was 7.4 percent among men age 20 and older. However, economists and activists point out that the numbers obscure trouble spots, particularly for women of color.
“The big numbers we’re seeing in the news are not showing the actual tragedy below that: intense wage discrimination, compounded by structural racism that moms of color are experiencing right now,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder of Moms Rising, a network that advocates for policy and cultural changes that support mothers and families. She pointed to the wide wage gap for mothers, particularly for women of color.
In addition, the unemployment rate for Latinas climbed last month — from 10.5 percent to 11 percent — and Black women still faced a double-digit unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in September.
The economic data followed this week’s release of a report by the Lean In organization and McKinsey & Company that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and Lean In founder, called the most alarming she had ever seen. The “Women in the Workplace” report found that one out of three mothers may be forced to scale back their careers or opt out of the workforce entirely.
Until the pandemic, Bahn said, women’s increasing participation in the labor force and improving wages were helping to offset the household effects of income inequality, making their salaries “the thing that has made the difference for families’ income security.”
The pandemic is changing all that, and could have effects for years to come, she said.
“We know when women take a year off of work, it’s not just one year of work,” Bahn said. “It reduces their lifetime earnings potential.”
The way to offset the crisis for the unemployed is to restore enhanced unemployment benefits, she said. …