Employment Rate Drops as Economy Sheds 62,000

July 03, 2008

July 3, 2008 (Jobs Byte)

By Dean Baker

“Private sector job gains in the Bush years may fall below 3 million by November.”

The employment to population ratio (EPOP) ratio fell to 62.4 percent in June, its lowest level in more than three years, as the economy lost another 62,000 jobs in June. This was the sixth consecutive month in which the economy lost jobs. The private sector lost 91,000 jobs in June. With the April and May numbers revised down by 76,000, the job loss in the private sector over the last three months has been 273,000, an average of 91,000 a month. The private sector has now shed 578,000 jobs since employment peaked in November.

Job loss continues to be led by construction and manufacturing, but most sectors are now losing jobs. Construction lost 43,000 jobs in June, with both residential and non-residential construction now shedding jobs. Employment in residential construction has fallen by 15.8 percent since its peak in February of 2006. By comparison, real spending is down by almost 50 percent over this period. The fact that employment has fallen so much less than production undoubtedly reflects the fact that many undocumented workers never showed up in the employment data.

Losses were widespread across sectors. Manufacturing lost 33,000 jobs in June, a number that would have been larger had it not been for the return of about 15,000 striking workers in the auto sector.

The retail sector lost 7,500 jobs, with 4,800 of the lost jobs in auto dealers. Auto dealerships have shed just 25,900 jobs (2.1 percent of total employment) over the last year. Given the sharp falloff in sales this number is likely to increase substantially in the months ahead.

In the same vein, employment in the real estate sector has fallen by 2.4 percent from its peak in January of 2006. With sales of existing homes down by almost 30 percent, sales of new homes down by almost 50 percent, and prices down by 15 percent, it seems virtually certain that there will be much more job loss in this sector in the months ahead.

The temporary help and the larger employment services sectors are both shedding jobs at rapid rates, losing 30,400 and 56,900 jobs, respectively in June. These two sectors, which are often seen as harbingers of future employment trends have, respectively, lost 150,000 and 200,000 jobs since January.

The health care sector, which had been adding jobs at a rate of more than 30,000 a month, added just 14,500 jobs in June. The earlier rate was clearly unsustainable, since it would imply enormous increases in health care costs. Similarly, educational services, another key growth sector, added 15,300 jobs in June, a rate that is also not likely to be sustained in the months ahead.

State and local governments added 25,000 jobs in June. They have added 233,000 jobs over the last year. With most state and local governments now facing severe budget shortfalls, this pace will surely slow in the new fiscal year.
The news in the household survey is consistent with the weak picture in the establishment data. The June EPOP is a full percentage point below the peak hit in December of 2006. It is 2.3 percentage points below the peak hit in April of 2000, a difference that corresponds to 5.4 million fewer people having jobs.

The biggest falloff has been among teenagers, who have seen a drop of 4.5 percentage points in their EPOPs. (The EPOP for black teens fell to 19.6 percent, the lowest rate since March of 1984.) While some have attributed this to the minimum wage hike, this falloff in teen employment is standard for recessions. The EPOP for teens fell 6.8 pp from April of 2000 to May of 2002, a period in which there was no change in the federal minimum wage. There also was a big jump in Hispanic unemployment, which at 7.7 percent is 3.0 pp above its low in October of 2006.

The economy has entered a slow motion recession. It is not seeing the dramatic plunges in jobs that characterized prior recessions, but the collapse of the housing bubble is slowly sinking more and more sectors of the economy.

Dean Baker is the Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR’s Jobs Byte is published each month upon release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report. For more information or to subscribe by fax or email contact CEPR at 202-293-5380 ext. 102, or morgavan [at] cepr [dot] net.

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