Sunday, January 8, 2012

What the Unemployment Numbers Mean for You

Optimism seems to be flowing rather freely based on the unemployment numbers just released from the BLS. I think after so many months of bad news and such a tough economy it's natural to look at what seems to be a  positive report and take it to be so. And it is a sign that employment (at least for now) is looking better. More Americans have jobs now than they did a year ago.

About 1.5 million more Americans have jobs than did a year ago. Still, at a 8.5% unemployment rate there are over 13 million people still classified as being unemployed. And probably many more who are underemployed or have simply given up looking.

The scary thing to me as that while the unemployment rate has gone down nearly a whole percentage point in the last year the ratio of those employed to the population has remained basically flat.

As you can see the percentage of the population employed has barely fluctuated between 58.2 and 58.5%. So what does this mean? Likely many more people are dropping out of the population considered eligible for employment. That the gains we're making in jobs are small compared to how many people are discouraged and giving up on trying or how many people are accepting early retirement.

Still, I don't tend to disagree with the optimists. I think a dropping unemployment rate is a good thing. But it probably means if you're on the ground level looking for a job you're not going to see much of a change. If you are employed and overworked you probably aren't going to see your employers hiring much. But they might start talking about it and planning for it. And 2012 will probably be a better year for jobs than 2011.

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