Economy & Budget

December jobs disaster: The workforce collapses again

December jobs disaster: The workforce collapses again

A polar vortex of “unexpected” failure sends icy winds of pathetic job growth and workforce collapse howling through the December jobs report, as summarized by Fox Business:

The U.S. economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, well shy of estimates and dinging hopes of a widespread jobs recovery.

The headline unemployment rate fell to 6.7%, the lowest level in five years. But the rate fell primarily because hundreds of thousands of people left the workforce unable to find jobs, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

With 347,000 dropping out of the workforce, the labor force participation rate, which measures people actively looking for work, fell to 62.8%, a four-decade low.

The real problem here is the still-dismaying number of people who insist on looking for work.  Knock it off, you guys, and drop out of the workforce already.  You’re making President Obama look bad.

And December is usually a strong month for job creation, given all the seasonal hires!  Analysts are baffled, especially since there have been some modest upward revisions to the October and November numbers, which makes the December report look even worse… and makes the Democrat doom-mongering about the supposedly apocalyptic effects of the partial government shutdown look even more foolish.  I’m sure we’ll have a Democrat along any minute now to claim the December crash is really delayed response to the shutdown, as people paralyzed with terror by callous Republican determination to defund the People’s Glorious Health Care Leap Forward snap out of their fugue state and quit their jobs in disgust.

On the contrary, maybe we ought to have another government shutdown ASAP, because the evidence suggests they stimulate job growth.  Of course, the economic benefits from trimming ten or fifteen percent of Leviathan State flab is exactly what makes the socialist Left go weak in the knees.  The public has just about been hypnotized into forgetting the Eighties; God forbid they get another taste of private-sector power.

Economists had predicted 196,000 new jobs last month and that the unemployment rate would remain unchanged at 7%.

The November data was revised upwards from a gain of 203,000 jobs to 241,000, meaning employment gains in October and November were 38,000 higher than previously reported.

Analysts were hard pressed to explain why the December numbers fell so short of expectations.

“We stop short of making larger observations based on this number.  The economy, based on any number of other indicators, has been picking up steam of late which makes today’s number….curious,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at research firm BTIG.

Strong October and November jobs data, combined with a string of recent positive economic reports, led analysts to predict – incorrectly — that the positive trend would continue into December.

I can’t imagine why employers didn’t go on a hiring binge when they saw ObamaCare imploding throughout October and November, and received their fourteenth set of hastily revised insurance guidelines – scribbled in pencil on the back of some expired pizza coupons – from the Department of Health, Human Services, and 404 Errors.

The same excuses we’ve been hearing for the past five years have been proffered for the awful December jobs report: bad weather pushing the construction industry down, maybe there will be upward revisions later, stimulus from the Federal Reserve tapered off, don’t read too much into a single bad report (but by all means, read too much into the good ones!)

The dedicated unemployment gadflies at ZeroHedge took this opportunity to once again call B.S. on the heavily massaged topline unemployment number that gets into all the papers, noting that the difference between the cooked U-3 metric of 6.7 percent and the real unemployment rate of 11.5 percent hit an all-time high in December.  There was also an unusually large gap between the employer survey and the household survey; the latter is always more speculative and unreliable, and always delivers higher numbers, but it’s necessary because there are forms of non-traditional employment that business payroll departments don’t report.

It would be fair to say workforce decline is no longer fully concealed, as it was during most of Obama’s first term; nobody’s making a serious effort to portray December’s report as good news because the U-3 rate dipped a little.  But workforce decline is still curiously downplayed, as though it were a bit of bad news delivered alongside the good, or even a negative metric that “overshadows” the good news.  There was no good news.  Not even half of the jobs needed to keep pace with population growth were created.  The numbers bobbled because an immense number of people reached the end of the year and gave up looking for work.  2013 overall created fewer jobs than 2012, which isn’t exactly what Barack Obama promised during his re-election campaign.

House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement reminding the media of all those pro-growth jobs bills the House GOP has been passing, only to watch Senate Democrats quietly murder them and dispose of the legislative corpses while the press looks the other way:

Every American has a right to ask the question ‘Where are the jobs?’  Today’s disappointing report shows, once again, that the president’s policies are failing too many Americans, many of whom have simply stopped looking for work.  There are more families living in poverty today than there were before the president took office, and instead of making it easier to find a good-paying job, Washington has been more focused on making it less difficult to live without one.

The top priority of middle-class families who are struggling in this economy, and the top priority of the people’s House, is creating new jobs.  That’s why we have passed dozens of pro-growth jobs bills that would help improve job training, expand energy and infrastructure development, promote education and innovation, and protect small businesses from ObamaCare.  The longer Senate Democrats stall these bills, the longer Americans will be waiting to find the new job they need and deserve.”

The three-month rolling average of employment numbers, generally held to be a more reliable measure of health than any single report, is holding fairly steady… at a rate just above population growth.  Stasis is not good enough when we’re slogging through Year Five of the weakest “recovery” we’ve ever seen.  And if part of that stasis involves a growing length of unemployment and more people giving up altogether, it’s not a course that will lead us to any happy destinations.

Update: Courtesy of Sean Davis at The Federalist, here’s Obamanomics in one simple, devastating chart:

labor_dropout_chart

 

Update: “Puzzling… worrisome… shocking…” Choose your own adjective for this jobs report!  Or use all of them at once, as in the video below.  One funny thing about the expert reaction to this “unexpected” disaster: they keep talking about the unexpectedly bad weather.  Was everyone really surprised that it gets cold and snows in December?  That’s a shocking development no economic guru could possibly have anticipated?  And it cut the job numbers down to well under half what they were expecting?  I shudder to think what havoc the polar vortex will wreak on January’s employment numbers.

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