May 10, 2012

The number of women not in the labor force hits an all-time high as 324,000 women leave in the last 2 months.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force includes people who are unemployed but actively looking for work.
This year (in both January and April), only 57.6 percent of the women in the civilian noninstitutional population were in the labor force. That is the lowest rate of labor force participation by American women since April 1993, according to historical data maintained by BLS.

The rate of female participation in the civilian workforce peaked twelve years ago--in April 2000--when hit 60.3 percent...

For both males and females combined, the rate of participation in the labor force dropped to 63.6 percent in April—the lowest rate since December 1981.

Recently, however, women have been leaving the labor force in larger numbers than men.
It would be interesting to know why this has happened. Is it a cultural trend, with families restructuring to single-earner form? Are more women going the "Julia" route, finding succor in the arms of the government? Or is this mostly the government's recategorization of the unemployed, done to keep us from seeing the real unemployment percentage?

37 comments:

Robert Cook said...

When reading of "new" trends in employment and unemployment--or, frankly, any news to do with the subject--one should always be skeptical, if not outright disbelieving, by default.

We have unemployment in this country greater than 10%, probably close to 20%, but the government oh so carefully defines the terms in order to report far less dismaying figures.

And then there are those who are under-employed: the temp employees, part time employees, "independent contractors," so-called, all of whom are paid poorly and enjoy no benefits.

We're in the shit, while the government provides personal consierge services to the wealthy elites and big corporations, banks, and financial houses.

damikesc said...

The answer is "B". Women are not finding jobs significantly better than men are. Men have just been "leaving the work force" for a longer time now.

MarkW said...

One of the places that the unemployed are going, unfortunately, is onto the disability rolls. And once people are approved for permanent disability they virtually never leave the program:

"The number of workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) jumped 22 percent to 8.7 million in April from 7.1 million in December 2007, Social Security data show. That helps explain as much as one quarter of the decline in the U.S. labor-force participation rate during the period, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley."

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-05-06/markets/31591497_1_unemployment-insurance-disability-benefits-social-security-disability-insurance

Saint Croix said...

It's so dishonest to stop counting people. The real unemployment rate is at least 11%.

The Department of Labor Statistics is part of the Department of Labor, a political office under Obama. It is not an independent agency like the CBO, for example. So can they scam the numbers? Of course.

I suspect Obama is kicking people off the unemployment rolls in an election year.

It will be interesting how brazen he gets about doing this, and when the media will call him on it.

Matthew Sablan said...

This isn't unique to this administration, it is just that the unemployment rate is so high that discouraged workers leaving the workforce is having a noticeable impact on unemployment numbers.

As for why it is impacting women more now? My understanding is that job fields that have primarily men (construction, for example), tend to get hit earlier in a recession/depression, whereas jobs that tend to be dominated by women (teaching, for example), tend to not be impacted till further into the economic slump. Also, since evil capitalists pay women less, it is more cost effective to fire men.

AJ Lynch said...

Heh- succor is an answer I just wrote in my crossword puzzle.

Saint Croix said...

This isn't unique to this administration

Show me examples!

From the Forbes article...

In the latest, much celebrated, unemployment report, the labor force participation rate had plummeted to 63.7%, the most rapid decline in U.S. history.

Republicans can't fudge numbers like this, the media would call them on it.

I predict we will see slight downticks in unemployment every month from now until November.

8%, 7.9%, 7.8%, 7.7%, 7.6%, 7.5%. And at the same time we will see massive numbers of people leaving the workforce.

And the media will report the unemployment number and omit the second fact.

And Obama will campaign that things are getting better.

Matthew Sablan said...

The definition of unemployment hasn't changed, is what I mean by this not being unique. The situation is; no other administration has had enough people leave the workforce to impact unemployment numbers. But, Obama is merely benefiting from the rules as written; he didn't need to make any new ones.

Saint Croix said...

The definition of unemployment hasn't changed, is what I mean by this not being unique.

How do you know it hasn't changed? "Actively seeking work" can mean a lot of things. Maybe 3 years ago you had to apply for a job once a week, and today you have to apply for a job every day.

You're telling me it's impossible for them to fudge the numbers? I not only say it's possible, I say it's likely.

Moose said...

This actually is a part of a larger question (I know - nothings more important than how it affects women, but bear with me). The US population grew ~100 million between 1980 and 2010 - and yet today we have a workforce that's equal to 1980's. How could that be? Who' or what is supporting all those people that are not working?

It could be theorized that with the aging of the population there are a percentage on pensions and retirement accounts, but that can't account for the entire disparity. I suspect we see here (and this is not such a stretch) that the federal gov't supports the rest.

Roger J. said...

My thought on the economy. We as a nation are facing structural economic issues, and BLS stats are not equipped to deal with structural issues. I only hope the next POTUS, can put together a team that can address these structural issues, but any fixes in this area will of necessity be long term. And I suspect politicians arent equipped to deal with long term issues.

campy said...

It will be interesting how brazen he gets about doing this, and when the media will call him on it.

How = as brazen as he needs to get

When = third week in November at the earliest

Matthew Sablan said...

Maybe I'm just not cynical enough.

Pogo said...

I quit trusting the numbers put outby the government several years ago. Some are quite true, many are false, and a lot are, like the BLS data, only partly true. It's like China or the USSR; numbers are malleable things, bullshit for the gullible masses.

My own lying eyes see multiple empty buildings in downtown Milwaukee. Nothing in them, and nothing's going to be.

Used car lots can't hang on to Corollas, but there are few buyers for luxury cars and fun little cars.

Walmart is full. Macy's is not.

I see far more people at Goodwill than ever. Full parking lots on weeknights, with nice newer cars, not beaters. I used to have the store to myself, and now often find everything's been picked through already.

Backyard and front yard gardens are far more common.

Saint Croix said...

Gallup measures unemployment, too, which is a good thing.

Gallup put unempoloyment at 9% in mid-February.

Contrast the government numbers. For instance, this AP report on the government statistics. Almost a full percentage point less.

Gallup polls on employment twice a year. We'll see the next Gallup numbers in August.

Saint Croix said...

I quit trusting the numbers put outby the government several years ago. Some are quite true, many are false, and a lot are, like the BLS data, only partly true. It's like China or the USSR; numbers are malleable things, bullshit for the gullible masses.

The worst is when they talk about how they cut spending.

Icepick said...

Saint Croix, the definitions haven't been changed in some time. That doesn't guarantee that the numbers aren't being fudged, however.

The BLS does two monthly surveys. The first is the Establishment Survey. This survey asks established businesses how moany workers they have hired or let go recently. This is where the headline number of +115,000 jobs added comes from. This survey also uses the mysterious "birth/death" model to estimate how many jobs may have been added by businesses that have recently formed (which can't be surveyed) or businesses that have recent stopped operations (which also can't be surveyed). The number this model comes up with is NOT added directly to the survey results, but goes through a "black box" to get folded into the numbers. No one outside the BLS knows how the black box works, as far as I know, and thus it remains a mystery.

The Unemployment Rates get calculated from the Household Survey, which is exactly what it sounds like. The BLS calls up a helluva lot of households and asks them questions about who is working and how much, et cetera. Some of the questions are designed to determine if someone has "dropped out" of the labor force by the current definitions (which go back to 1994 if I recall correctly).

Last month, the Establishment Survey stated that 115,000 jobs had been added, which is generally considered less than the amount needed to keep up with population growth.

however, the UE-3 rate (the one eveeryone talks about) fell 0.1% to 8.1%. This happened despite the fact that the Household Survey showed a DECREASE of 169,000 people actually working. That's right, we're in negative territory for jobs last month.

The UE-3 rate fell because 342,000 people stopped participating in the workforce. So what would have been an uptick of 0.1% to the UE-3 rate became a drop because 0.2% of people once in the workforce dropped out.

Now for the real kick in the head - these are all seasonally adjusted numbers. There are good reasons to do that, because there is seasonality in the jobs situation. (More people get hired to work the Christmas season, for example. Construction workers typically get hired in greater numbers for the summer months. Auto plants used to slow down and lay off workers mid-year. Et cetera.)

The BLS has a tough job. However, I do think they're fudging the numbers these days. I don't think they're doing it with definitions, as that's too obvious. I would expect them to fudge the numbers on the establishment survey by playing with the "black box" for the birth/death adjustments. I would expect them to play with ALL the surveys by fudging the weighting factors in the surveys, much like pollsters in political races have been over-weighting for democrats in recent years. THAT is where it is possible to do the cheats and no one could know without access to the original survey data and the methodology used to compute the final numbers.

Pogo said...

My favorite indicator is illegal immigration.

"the net flow of Mexicans into the US has fallen so much that there is a high probability that it is now in reverse ending around forty years of inward migration. The Pew Hispanic Center notes that the standstill - after more than 12 million current immigrants have entered the US - more than half of whom are illegal"

Icepick said...

Saint Croix, Gallup publishes numbers every month. They even do a daily 30 day running average total.

Their current numbers (available if you hit the Download button) show:

% Employed full time for an employer
64.7%

% Unemployed
8.3%

% Underemployed
18.3%

These numbers are for 5/8/2012.

Icepick said...

Here's something that doesn't get mentioned very often:

The Federal government could keep very accurate real-time numbers for these statistics.

It gets taxes deducted from most paychecks every time an employer cuts a check to an employee. This data could be used to create much more accurate numbers.

Not everyone works on the books, but that can be estimated. Not everyone works for someone else, and thus most likely pay taxes quarterly or annually. This two can be estimated.

In other words, they could estimate two small parts of the employment picture instead of estimating the entirety of the employment picture, and they could do it in what would ammount to real-time.

There would be provacy issues doing it this way, but nothing that any number of currently available programs couldn't handle. (Self-insured companies analyze their employees health usage all the time. They're not allowed to monitor specific employees, however, and there are at least two big companies (when I was last in the business) that scrub data to remove details that would identify employees to employers. The government could easily get similar software to do the same for analyzing tax data.)

Icepick said...

But here's my big question.

The BLS Household Survey surveys a lot of people, and is constantly rolling households into and out of the survey pool. Has anyone here ever participated in a BLS Household Employment Survey? I've been asking for over a year now, and I have yet to find anyone who says that they have. (I've got a small sample size, however.) I'd love to hear from anyone who HAS been so surveyed.

Matthew Sablan said...

I actually always wondered why tax data wasn't used to determine employment. I'm guessing privacy concerns.

Icepick said...

Moose, employment totals have grown from 90,800,000 in January of 1980 to 129,270,000 in January of 2010. That's an almost forty million increase ion the labor force.

What has gone BACK to 1980 levels are Labor Force Participation rates. That number climbed through the 1980s and 1990s as women entered the workforce. It has cratered the last five years, with no apparent end in sight.

Icepick said...

I actually always wondered why tax data wasn't used to determine employment. I'm guessing privacy concerns.

Those concerns are very easily fixed by the appropriate software. The data can be run through a third party before ending up with the people that need it with out much trouble at all. (Well, not much trouble unless you're the US Federal government, apparently.)

Bill Harshaw said...

In part it reflects the cutback in government. Early on in the Great Recession men were disproportionately hit, because construction and manufacturing were cutting back, more recently the cutbacks have come in government and that's where more women were employed.

Icepick said...

Pogo, such eyeball test as you describe are a good place to start.

What I'm seeing in Orlando lately is increased business activity. There's even some new commercial real estate being developed! It isn't very much, and this level of activity would have been considered recessionary just fivew years ago, but it beats the NOTHING we had for several years.

I also discovered recently that housing starts did not completely stop even in the worst of times. There's a neighborhood not far north of Disney property where they never stopped building. The sign out front says "Hoomes starting from the 500s!" Yep, there are still enough rich people around to buy $500,000 and up vacation homes to use for a week or two a year.

But things are marginally better. People that are employed are starting to switch jobs. I even know one man who was out of work almost four years that recently got called back to his old company (which did large scale commercial construction). Most of us Long Term Unemployed (LTUEs) are still languishing with no prospects, but there is some activity around the edges.

I suspect that this is all the final little push before the next official recession sets in, as things look bad (or worse) almost every place in the world right now. I don't know how the USA can continue to do well (only in a comparative sense, as the current economy both sucks and blows) when everyone else is tanking. Headwinds, as they like to say on the economic and finance blogs.

ricpic said...

It's not that these women can't find jobs, it's that they prefer to dance in fields of flowers.

Saint Croix said...

Saint Croix, Gallup publishes numbers every month. They even do a daily 30 day running average total.

I saw that page! And I totally misread it. The way the graph lists Feb, Aug, Feb, Aug, I thought they just did official polls in Feb and Aug. But you're right, my bad.

I would expect them to play with ALL the surveys by fudging the weighting factors in the surveys, much like pollsters in political races have been over-weighting for democrats in recent years.

We all look at polls but I'm really dubious about the so-called science of polling.

Nobody ever calls me for a poll. I have a cell phone and no landline. I'm not in any phone book. Am I off the grid?

But in general I can't wrap my head around the idea that if you know what a 39 year old white male in North Carolina thinks, you can project his opinions onto another 39 year old white male without talking to him.

You can?

And what I find hilarious is this idea that you can project your own error rate. I can just see Obama in the oval office projecting his own error rate. "There is a 4% probability that I am mistaken in my projections. And a 96% certainty that my projections are correct." Oh, okay then.

MadisonMan said...

Are they pregnant?

dreams said...

Uh, I think it is because of the high unemployment. The trend will reverse after Romney is elected. The free enterprise system works, socialism doesn't.

Jason said...

One of the Lowe's hardware stores where my girlfriend works just sacked almost all of its temporary workers... who were supposed to be on through November.

Robert Cook said...

"Uh, I think it is because of the high unemployment. The trend will reverse after Romney is elected."


Hahahahahaha!


Oh...you were being serious?

dreams said...

"Oh...you were being serious?"

Seriously.

edutcher said...

Say it, this is the real War on Women, and the Demos own it.

And, yes, it's just another lie about the real unemployment figure.

(I saw one article that says you can use the B(L)S numbers to get the real rate, but you add the U5 and U6; it's almost 25%)

Hal Duston said...

From 1948 to 1968, the overall labor force participation rate hovered between 58% and 60%. In 1969, it increased over 60%, continuing until 1988, where it hovered between 66% and 68% until 1996 when it began steadily decreasing. By 2007 it had decreased to 66%. After 2008 the decrease accelerated and today it is below 64%.

The labor force participation rate for men has been steadily decreasing over that entire period from 86% in 1948 to 70% today. The rate for women parallels the overall rate, increasing from 32% in 1948 plateauing at 60% in 1997 and then decreasing in 2008 to 58% today.

Interestingly, the labor force participation rate has been steadily decreasing from 1992 for all education levels with the exception of less than a high school diploma, which has been steadily increasing over the same timeframe.

The labor force participation rate for age 16-17 and age 18-19 has plummeted from 50%-20% and 68%-46% respectively since 1977. Age 20-24, age 25-34, age 35-44, and age 45-54 all roughly parallel the overall rate. Age 55+ decreased from 43% in1948 bottoming out at 30% in 1992, and then increased once again in 1996 plateauing at 40% in 2008.

By race all labor force participation rates parallel the overall rate.

Peter said...

MarkW said, "One of the places that the unemployed are going, unfortunately, is onto the disability rolls."

Which is one more reason why Social Security is going broke.

As near as I can tell, SSI's handling of applications is the worst of all possible worlds:

1. Practically everyone is denied on initial application (therefore those who are truly disabled must wait).

2. Practically all of those rejected will eventually be accepted so long as they hire a lawyer specialized in this area (therefore those who are not disabled, or not all that disabled, will collect lifetime benefits).

PatCA said...

The left is hoping all those unemployed women become Julias.

Funny how liberalism is destroying feminism.