A Framework That Provides Clarity

During periods of “low visibility,” confusion reigns: for every indication of one trend, there seems to be a countertrend. The key is to glean from the collective wisdom of reliable leading indicators a clear signal that the economy is headed for a turn.



Unemployment Rate Steady At 9.7%

Snowicane? Schmoicane! The BLS report is out and despite whispers of horrible numbers due to February storms along the East coast (over 1 million workers didn’t work in February due to bad weather; in a typical February, just 291k aren’t able to work; so the weather really was bad), the news was better than expected.

Here are the basics:

• The US economy lost 36,000 jobs in February, bringing the total of lost jobs since the beginning of the recession to 8.43 million
• December job loss revised from -150K to -109K; January revised to -26K from -20K
• The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.7% — the rate may have peaked at 10.1% last fall
• The broader unemployment rate, which includes part-time and discouraged workers, rose to 16.8% from 16.5%
• Long-term unemployment (more than 6 months) is still a problem–6.13 million workers have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, which equals 4% of the civilian workforce, a slight decrease from the 6.3 million and 4.1% record set last month. (Records started in 1948)
• Temporary jobs continued to improve for the 5th consecutive month with 48K new positions added last month — temp jobs are seen as a leading indicator for future full time jobs

I was on CNN’s American Morning today, analyzing the jobs report with my pal Lakshman Achuthan from ECRI. I loved his line that this is turning out to be “The Rodney Dangerfield Recovery,” because it gets no respect. Who knew–an economist with a sense of humor?

It’s been a long slog for the US economy and it’s not all bright and sunny just yet. After all, nearly 15 million people are still out of work and there are nearly 6 unemployed workers for every job opening available. This chart from Catherine Rampell at Economix says it all.

But maybe, just maybe, there are signs of sunshine on the horizon.