The textbook definition of a recession claims the Great Recession technically ended in the summer of 2009, after the economy stopped contracting and started to expand again. However, many Americans continue to feel the aftershocks of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as the labor market remains a sore spot for millions of households.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reminded everyone that the so-called “jobs recovery” is sluggish at best. In March, the U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs. An additional 37,000 jobs appeared from revisions in the prior two months. The report is likely good enough to keep the Federal Reserve dialing down its bond purchases, but the results were worse-than-expected. Economists expected around 200,000 jobs to be added last month.
More jobs were lost in the recent recession than any other post-World War II downturn. Making matters worse, the quality of jobs that have been added to the economy in recent years are a serious concern. Here’s a a look at 10 charts showing the bigger jobs picture.
1. Unemployment Rates
The headline unemployment rate came in at 6.7 percent last month, unchanged from the previous month. That is below the peak of 10 percent in 2009, but the unemployment rate has been stuck at 6.7 percent in three of the past four months.
Additionally, the U-6 unemployment rate, which includes everyone in the headline rate — plus people who are employed part-time but prefer a full-time position, or want work but have stopped looking — increased one-tenth of a percentage point and remains stubbornly high at 12.7 percent.
2. Part-Time Workers
The number of people employed part-time because of economic reasons is around 7.4 million. These individuals had their hours slashed or were unable to find a full-time job. They are also one reason for the high U-6 unemployment rate. As the chart above shows, a more reasonable number for the amount of part-time workers is around 3 to 5 million.
The backbone of the U.S. economy and employment used to be manufacturing, but this is clearly no longer the case. The manufacturing sector has been bleeding jobs for decades. The number of employees in the manufacturing sector is near its lowest point since 1946. Over the past decade, more than 2.6 million manufacturing jobs have been destroyed.
4. Employment-to-Population Ratio
Despite the decline in the headline unemployment rate over recent years, the percentage of working-age Americans with a job is under 59 percent, its lowest level since 1983. This ratio will have difficulty improving. The adult population increases by about 200,000 people each month, but the economy has averaged a monthly gain of only 187,000 jobs over the past 12 months.
A growing number of analysts and economists are beginning to realize a quality issue with the jobs being created. Leisure and hospitality employment increased by 29,000 jobs in March, the second most of any category. Retail jobs — another low-wage industry — added 21,000 jobs in March. Over the past year, these two industries are responsible for more than 800,000 new jobs.
Wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP have been declining for over four decades. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year. A retail salesperson — the most popular occupation — earned an average of only $25,310 in 2012. In fact, according to new data from the BLS, nine of the top 10 jobs in America pay $34,000 or less per year.
7. Job Hunt
Financial advisors often advocate an emergency savings fund of around eight months. The simple reason for this is that it takes the average unemployed person about 36 weeks to find a new job. That is below the high of 41 weeks seen in recent years, but well above historical standards.
8. Hours Worked
The typical work week has also seen a dramatic change over the decades. The average amount of annual time worked per employed person in the U.S. has declined from 1,900 hours in 1970 to about 1,760 hours in 2011. Making matters worse, hourly wages are failing to grow. In March, the average earnings slipped one cent to $24.30 an hour.
9. Labor Force
A large catalyst for the declining headline unemployment is due to job hunters dropping out of the labor force. The share of working-age Americans who were employed or looking for work rose to 63.2 percent last month, its highest level since September. However, on a longer timeframe, the gauge is still near its lowest level since 1978 — a time when fewer women were participating in the labor force.
10. Long-Term Unemployment
In March, the total number of unemployed persons came in at 10.5 million while the number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was about 3.7 million. Those individuals constitute 35.8 percent of the unemployed, and their numbers have shrunk by just 837,000 over the past year.
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