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December Jobs Report Makes 2015 Second Best Year For Jobs Growth Since 1999

Now Hiring Sign

The economy closed out 2015 with one of the strongest monthly jobs reports we’ve seen in some time, making 2015 the second best year for job creation since 1999:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 292,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment gains occurred in several industries, led by professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining employment continued to decline.

The number of unemployed persons, at 7.9 million, was essentially unchanged in December, and the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent for the third month in a row. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.6 percentage point and 800,000, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for blacks declined to 8.3 percent in December, while the rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), whites (4.5 percent), Asians (4.0 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little or no change. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.1 million in December and accounted for 26.3 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has shown little movement since June, but was down by 687,000 over the year. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate, at 62.6 percent, was little changed in December and has shown little movement in recent months. In December, the employment-population ratio, at 59.5 percent, changed little

(…)

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 292,000 in December. Employment rose in  several industries, including professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining employment continued to decline. In
2015, payroll employment growth totaled 2.7 million, compared with 3.1 million in 2014. (See table B-1.)

Employment in professional and business services increased by 73,000 in December, with temporary help services accounting for 34,000 of the gain. In 2015, professional and business services added 605,000 jobs, compared with a gain of 704,000 in 2014.

Construction showed strong job growth for the third consecutive month, gaining 45,000 jobs in December. Job gains occurred among specialty trade contractors (+29,000) and in construction of buildings (+10,000). Over the year, construction added 263,000 jobs, compared with a gain of 338,000 jobs in 2014.

In December, health care employment rose by 39,000, with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory health care services (+23,000) and hospitals (+12,000). Job growth in health care averaged 40,000 per month in 2015, compared with 26,000 per month in 2014.

Food services and drinking places added 37,000 jobs in December. In 2015, the industry added 357,000 jobs.

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 23,000 in December, with a gain of 15,000 in couriers and messengers.

Within the information industry, motion pictures and sound recording added 15,000 jobs in December, offsetting a decline of 13,000 in the prior month.

Employment in mining continued to decline in December (-8,000). After adding 41,000 jobs in 2014, mining lost 129,000 jobs in 2015, with most of the loss in support activities for mining.

Manufacturing employment changed little in December, though its nondurable goods  component added 14,000 jobs. In 2015, manufacturing employment was little changed (+30,000), following strong growth in 2014 (+215,000).

Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, retail trade, financial activities, and government, changed little over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours in December. The manufacturing workweek edged down by 0.1 hour to 40.6 hours, and factory overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.7 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that the jobs numbers for October were revised upward from +298,000 to +307,000, and that the numbers for November were revised upward from +211,000 to +252,000 for a net upward revision for the two months of +50,000. Pending further revisions to the November and Decemer numbers this means that the last three months of the year saw an average of 284,000 jobs created per month and job growth for the entire year hit 2.65 million jobs for an average monthly job growth number of roughly 220,000 jobs per month. That’s below the more than three million we saw in 2014 but still good enough to qualify as the second best year for job growth since 1999, which in and of itself is a measure of just how weak the economy has been for much of the two opening decades of the 21st Century even when you take the Great Recession out of the equation entirely. Additionally, the Labor Force Participation Rate, which has been at or near historic lows for some time now, ticked upward last month, which may indicate that improvements in the job market led some people to start looking for work again.  On the somewhat negative side, the fact that hourly wages, hours worked, and the average workweek remained relatively unchanged across all sectors suggested that there still isn’t the kind of slack in the labor market that would cause employers to need to start hiring in large numbers on a more consistent basis. Additionally, the long-term unemployment rate ticked upward slightly, although this may be a statistical anomaly. For the most part, though, this is a very good report and the fact that the unemployment rate remains at 5.0%, which historically was at least at one point considered by economists to be at or near “full employment” is worth noting as well.

The New York Times finds mostly good news as well:

The nation’s labor market capped off a year of steady growth with an impressive sprint as employers added 292,000 workers to their payrolls in December, the government said on Friday.

The unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent last month, and average hourly wages stayed flat.

The jobless rate, which has declined since topping the 10 percent mark in October 2009, is now hovering just above what economists consider full employment — the point where further declines could start to push up inflation.

The average monthly gain in jobs last year were closer to the 2013 average of 199,000 a month, but short of the 260,000 figure reached in 2014.

“The remarkable thing is how consistent employment growth has been over the past three or four years,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We’re getting at least 200,000 jobs per month on a consistent basis. That’s quite an achievement.”

The country’s economic fortunes will figure largely in this year’s presidential campaign. Republican candidates have attacked President Obama and other Democrats’ economic policies, though such criticisms could lose their sting if the employment picture continues to improve.\

Cautious optimism about the labor market contributed to the Federal Reserve’s decision a few weeks ago to raise interest rates from their near-zero levels, where they had rested since 2008. Analysts are now scanning the employment and wage figures for signs of how quickly the Fed will follow up with further rate increases.

Looking at the year ahead, the biggest question is whether overall growth will remain strong enough to keep hiring steady, or whether turmoil in China and elsewhere in the global economy will weigh on the United States economy by holding down exports and further undercutting the struggling manufacturing sector.

“There are a lot of crosscurrents,” Mr. Zandi said, pointing out that even though the auto industry reported record vehicle sales in 2015, “anything trade-sensitive is getting hammered because of what’s going on overseas.”

The report announced each month by the Labor Department is by nature a single snapshot and because of the holidays, December is always a bit anomalous.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor Economic Research, noted that in job postings, there was a dip in December. “That’s something that happens every year as people take vacation,” he said, adding that he expected a reversal in the coming month. “Looking forward, January is the best time to be looking for a job. There’s always a big jump in labor demand in January.”

Despite the improving job market, wage growth has been sluggish. Mr. Chamberlain said worker benefits like paid parental leave and free catered lunches had significantly outpaced wage increases over the past decade. But those gains have occurred primarily at the nation’s larger companies (those with more than 500 employees) and among the highest skilled workers or members of unions, which have some bargaining power.

“That’s definitely part of what we’re seeing here with slow wage growth,” Mr. Chamberlain said.

The pain of a disappointing paycheck has been somewhat blunted by the continued decline in oil prices, which has lowered the cost of heating a home or filling up a car.

Economists say that in addition to fundamental shifts in the economy, continuing slack in the labor market is partly responsible for the lack of progress on wages. Many Americans have been forced to settle for part-time work or are too discouraged to keep job hunting after years of fruitless searching.

An analysis of long-term changes affecting the labor market released this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis focused on how automation and offshoring were continuing to reduce the number of middle-skill jobs, like those in manufacturing and production. One result is a labor market that increasingly resembles a barbell, with jobs concentrated at the high- and low-skill ends of the spectrum.

“The picture is clear: Employment in nonroutine occupations — both cognitive and manual — has been increasing steadily for several decades,” the report concluded. “Employment in routine occupations, however, has been mostly stagnant.”

The report concluded that, “It is expected that the disappearance of routine jobs in the U.S. will also continue.”

As is The Wall Street Journal:

Nonfarm payrolls increased a seasonally adjusted 292,000 in December, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate, obtained through a separate survey, held steady at 5% last month. The unemployment rate hasn’t been below that mark since 2007.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected payrolls to rise by 210,000 and the jobless rate to fall to 4.9%.

The jobs figures stand “in sharp contrast to the negative economic news emanating from China,” said Beth Ann Bovino, economist at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. In the U.S., “people are finding jobs and getting paid more for them.”

Revisions showed employers added 50,000 more jobs in October and November than previously estimated. November’s payroll gain of 252,000 was revised from an initially reported 211,000. October’s gain was recast to 307,000 from a previously estimated 298,000. The fourth quarter was the best three-month stretch of job creation in 2015.

For all of 2015, the economy added an average of 221,000 jobs a month. That’s a slowdown from the 260,000 averaged in 2014, but still the second-best year for job creation since 1999.

Meanwhile, wages held nearly steady last month. The average hourly earnings of all private-sector workers fell by 1 cent in December to $25.24. But over the past year, average hourly earnings rose 2.5%, matching the year’s best 12-month gain.

Wage gains were stronger in 2015 than any of the previous five years, but they remain historically modest. The average annual increase for non-managers in the 30 years prior to the start of the most recent recession was nearly 4%. Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers increased 2.4% in December from a year earlier. Data for all private-sector workers only dates back to 2009.

Federal Reserve officials will likely view the latest jobs report as a mixed bag. The central bank cited “considerable improvement” in the labor market during 2015 when it acted last month to raise its benchmark interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade. Steady hiring and unemployment supports that view.

But still-modest wage growth remains a concern. A tighter labor market should lead to better paychecks and ultimately stoke consumer inflation. Without stronger wage gains, it will be difficult for inflation to move back toward the Fed’s 2% annual target.

“A meaningful pickup in wage growth is still the missing piece of the puzzle in this recovery,” said Paul Ashworth, economist at Capital Economics.

The strong overall payroll growth in 2015 is somewhat out of sync with other measures of the economy.

Economic output in the third quarter advanced 2.1% from a year earlier-about the same lackluster pace averaged throughout the expansion’s first 6½ years. The latest readings on manufacturing show that sector is contracting. And falling oil prices and weak global demand are holding consumer inflation at historically low levels.

Renewed instability in China this past week threatens to put additional downward pressure on global growth prospects.

The big question about these positive numbers, of course, is whether they are sustainable heading into 2016. The final quarter of any year often sees a bump in employment thanks to the fact that manufacturers, shippers, retailers, and other businesses take on additional employees heading into the holiday season, only to cut back once January an February roll around. Additionally, the last several years have seen the first quarter of the year give us slower economic growth than the rest of the year, often due to weather conditions in the Northeast and Midwest. So far, the weather in those parts of the country has been somewhat milder than normal but winter is still young and its unclear if we’ll see a similar phenomenon in the coming months or if the economy will continue it’s current course of positive job growth. An additional unknown factor is China, which is currently seeing another round in the financial/stock market crisis that gripped the nation in China. That crisis has caused markets across the world to tumble this week over concerns that the ‘Chinese bubble’ may be about to pop, as many have anticipated. Thus, there are several factor out of the control of policy makers that are likely to have a significant impact on the economy and, of course, job growth going forward.

Now that we’re into 2016, these economic statistics are taking on a renewed importance because of their implications for the races for President, Congress, and the Senate. Right now, of course, the primary focus of the race still seems to be on national security, but eventually we can expect that public attention will shift back to the economy. At that point, the state of the economy is likely to be an issue that both Republican and Democratic candidates alike will have to deal with, albeit in different ways. Led most likely by Hillary Clinton, Democrats will want to emphasize the good news about the economy and argue that continuing economic growth requires continuing President Obama’s policies. Republicans will argue, not without justification, that while the economy is growing that growth remains sluggish and far too subject to outside economic shocks to be acceptable and that the Federal Government needs to adopt tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth. How the public receives these arguments will depend, in no small part on how the economy is actually doing and how they perceive their own personal economic situation.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. humanoid.panda says:

    The final quarter of any year often sees a bump in employment thanks to the fact that manufacturers, shippers, retailers, and other businesses take on additional employees heading into the holiday season, only to cut back once January an February roll around.

    ???

    This is why seasonal adjustments exist..

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  2. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans will argue, not without justification, that while the economy is growing that growth remains sluggish and far too subject to outside economic shocks to be acceptable and that the Federal Government needs to adopt tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth.

    Is that water you’re carrying heavy?
    Why didn’t you type that we have tried Republican economics and it has proven to be a failure? Why didn’t you type that Republican economics has wrecked havoc on Kansas. And everywhere else it has been tried?
    Why didn’t you type that we are down 2 million jobs on net because of Republican intransigence, and that’s the primary reason growth is sluggish?

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  3. Slugger says:

    I think that the default thinking on the economy ought to be that there are stochastic fluctuations around a baseline growth of 3-4% over the last three generations. Anyone claiming to know more than that should be subjected to very strict scrutiny. I don’t think that Reagan was an economic savior while older Bush was a fool; I don’t think Democratic Presidents are better for the DowJones than Republican ones because of wisdom but because that’s how the dice rolled. I think that economics is still a largely undeciphered area.
    Disclosure: I did poorly in college economics classes and may be trying to shift blame from my shortcomings to the field.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans will argue, not without justification, that while the economy is growing that growth remains sluggish and far too subject to outside economic shocks to be acceptable and that the Federal Government needs to adopt tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth.

    Yes, the Republicans are going to be making their usual argument that we need to cut taxes on the wealthy because (the deficit is up/down, the economy is growing too fast/too slow/just right, we are at war/peace, unemployment is high/low, it’s raining/sunny, etc.). The GOP candidates seem to be in a competition to propose the biggest tax cut, deficit be damned. I believe Trumps ahead right now at 12 trillion in additional debt over the usual ten years. He says he won’t increase the deficit. Is anyone surprised that that’s a lie?

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Sorry C, didn’t see you there.

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  6. Ron Beasley says:

    The economy is changing – I see that Macy’s is closing stores and laying off thousands of people. Nearly everything I have bought in last decade has been online. I don’t even remember the last time I was in a mall. With Amazon Prime I can get what I order in 2 days or less including Sunday delivery..

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  7. Mackie Messer says:

    The rabid right wing Obama haters will always try to discredit ANY good news: the jobs report is good because it was the end of the year, the jobs report was good because it was the summer, the jobs report was good because the White House doctored the numbers. They are pathetic. We’ve been adding jobs for about 70 straight months. This President has pulled us out of the abyss that the two-headed (one brain) monster called Bushcheney threw the country into and it absolutely galls the right that this Black President came to America’s rescue. They are dead set on re-implementing their failed trickle-down, cut-taxes-for-the-rich policies. The Republican answer to a head cold is “cut taxes for the rich.”

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  8. Moosebreath says:

    “That’s below the more than three million we saw in 2014 but still good enough to qualify as the second best year for job growth since 1999, which in and of itself is a measure of just how weak the economy has been for much of the two opening decades of the 21st Century even when you take the Great Recession out of the equation entirely.”

    In other words, the economy after the repeal of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy outperformed the economy under those tax cuts. And today’s crop of Republican candidates are proposing tax cuts for the wealthy that makes Bush the Younger look like a piker, and Doug’s reaction is to cite their arguments with approval, as noted above, rather than pushing back based on actual experience on how the economy works.

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  9. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans will argue, not without justification, that while the economy is growing that growth remains sluggish and far too subject to outside economic shocks to be acceptable and that the Federal Government needs to adopt tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth.

    Let me guess what those ” tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth” will be?

    Let’s see: How about more tax cuts, with the promise that the economic growth above the current growth rate will pay for the increased deficits that they (Republicans) hate so much? Could that be a GOP policy prescription? Of course they will probably be pleased to resurrect the Paul Ryan-preferred move toward privatization of Medicare in order to reduce the likely-to-result increase in the hated deficit, right?

    It’s not without justification that I believe that the president’s economic policies have been beneficial to our economy since the financial crash of 2008. In fact we need only look to the economic condition in nations that adopted Republican preferred policies of cutback and austerity in the ensuing years to see how they’ve done relative to America – the answer is, not nearly as well as we have.

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  10. Tyrell says:

    Any increase in the employment rate is always helpful to someone. And food prices have stayed level for some time * . So I will hold my door to door sales careers comments for another time. And gas is below $2* ! Thankful for that.
    I would like to see some figures on wage and benefit comparisons by year.
    *My favorite lemon pies have jumped from $4.98 to $7.98 in a month ! Sad !
    * Demand continues to drop while supplies grow.

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  11. Tony W says:

    The president deserves full credit. Heaven knows he’d get full credit for the opposite result.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. grumpy realist says:

    I especially love the moaning and screaming about the recent 400 points drop in the Dow Jones being attributed to President Obama’s policies. No, it’s because the Chinese market took a belly flop, you idiots.

    Honestly, these nitwits would blame the 1929 stock market crash on Obama if they thought they could get away with it.

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  13. stonetools says:

    Well, a couple of things are clear now: The economy is recovering. There is now no doubt at all about that and even the Wall Street Journal(and Doug Mataconis)( has conceded this, although the right wing fever swamps are still muttering about the “labor force participation rate”-a stat no conservative had heard of prior to January 2009.
    Secondly, the recovery has mainly been due to the successful policies of President Barack Hussien Obama and the Federal Reserve Bank President whom he reappointed. It was the Obama stimulus that kickstarted the recovery ( so say most economists) and it was the Feds expansive monetary policy that kept the recovery going, along with Obama’s intervention to help the automobile industry. (Last year the automotive industry had it’s best year ever). Micheal Grunwald makes the case :

    Start with the economy, which, if you listen to Sanders or the Republicans, is a garbage dump of existential despair. Actually, it’s doing quite well. Unemployment has dropped from 10 percent during the worst of the Great Recession to 5 percent today, thanks to a record 69 consecutive months of private-sector employment growth that has produced 13.7 million new jobs. The past two years have been the best two years for job creation in the 21st century. After a near-death experience during the financial meltdown of 2008, the U.S. auto industry enjoyed record sales in 2015. The housing market has also rebounded from the crisis, and after-tax corporate profits are at an all-time high. It can sound partisan to mention those facts when a Democrat is in the White House, but they’re facts; it ought to be possible to acknowledge them without necessarily giving President Obama too much credit for them.
    In any case, the oft-predicted doomsday scenarios of the post-crisis era—double-dip recession, runaway inflation, runaway interest rates, out-of-control energy prices, a health insurance death spiral, a Greek-style debt crisis, a run on the dollar—are still stubbornly refusing to materialize. Growth is modest but steady. Inflation is low. Interest rates are very low, although the Fed felt confident enough about the recovery to raise them last month for the first time since the global financial meltdown. Gas is barely $2 a gallon. About 17 million uninsured Americans have gotten coverage in the past few years. The federal deficit has plunged from $1.4 trillion in 2009 to under $500 billion, while the dollar has gained strength against foreign currencies.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/everything-is-even-more-awesome-213505#ixzz3wgfjPQjj

    RTWT.This should be pretty much game, set, and match as to the efficacy of Obama’s economic policies-especially since he carried out those policies in the teeth of a massive resistance campaign by the Republicans and conservatives that quite frankly amounted to economic sabotage.
    As for Doug’s talk of growth policies through tax cuts -dude, just quit. If the last 8 years have proved anything, it’s that tax cuts don’t cause economic growth and that tax increases don’t read economic growth. Both Governors Brownback and Jindal tried the magical tax cut and austerity strategy in their respective states. The result? Kansas is an economic basket case and Jindal left Louisiana in worse shape than he got it and with abysmal popularity ratings. Meanwhile , since 2012, federal tax rates have gone up, Obamacare has been implemented, and Obama Administration has raised the minimum wage where it could (any many other states followed Obama’s lead and raised theirs). Republicans and conservative media predicted unconditional disaster at every point. The result? The economy has recovered and is growing steadily.
    At this point, it is clear that conservatives have little to say about the economy. Their economic ideas just don’t work (they’ve been demonstrated not to work in real time) and their predictions have all been proven wrong. Conservative economics is a failed religion at this point.I see no difference between Doug’s fealty to conservative economics and the Aztecs’ allegiance to Quetzalcoatl.
    Meanwhile, to keep this recovery going, it would be nice if we could do some infrastructure spending before interest rates go up.Unfortunately, Republicans are going to do their best to sabotage the economy before the 2016 presidential elections, so that’s not happening.Lets hope for a landslide for the sane party next year, before the economy slows down again.

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  14. stonetools says:

    Can someone explain to me why I don’t have authorization to edit my own comment? Thanks.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    Reading these comments, I think I see the light.

    The ODS crowd criticize Obama because U6 is higher than U3, or something. Many of us had Bush Derangement Syndrome and criticized W’s economic stewardship because the bottom fell out, trillions of dollars evaporated almost overnight, and unemployment skyrocketed, and we ended up on the hook for a huge bank bailout, for which no one has said “thank you”. And this followed years of at best mediocre performance.

    Similarly, the HDS crowd regard Hillary as the greatest liar of all time because someone in her employ said a video motivated Benghazi, as it had demonstrations elsewhere. Those of us with BDS called Bush a liar for justifying a war of aggresion that blew up the Middle East by cooking the intelligence and falsely claiming Iraq had WMDs and was working on an A Bomb.

    I guess both sides do do it.

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  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Slugger: The only observation that I differ from you on (and I did well in the econ classes that I took–for whatever that’s worth) is that casual observation seems to indicate that the market in aggregate over the past 3 generations seems to have preferred Democratic administrations to Republican ones. The conclusions that I draw from that are twofold: 1) The market seems more confident during Democratic administration that Republican ones because 2) what holders of capital want from government in terms of policy are good for holders of capital personally but bad for business.

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  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @stonetools:

    although the right wing fever swamps are still muttering about the “labor force participation rate”-a stat no conservative had heard of prior to January 2009.

    Yeah, funny thing about that. The only conclusion that I have been able to ferret out is that labor force participation before January 2009 was exclusively a phenomenon of “willingness to get off of one’s lazy butt and take a job.” I don’t know of any economist (or pseudo-economist/pundit/philosopher king/wise guy/seer/psychic/reader of entrails) who can explain how the shift away from the lack of employment=laziness phenomenon of the past happened, though.

    DrewGuarneri are you out there? Have anything? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  18. irondog says:

    Republicans will argue, not without justification, that while the economy is growing that growth remains sluggish and far too subject to outside economic shocks to be acceptable and that the Federal Government needs to adopt tax and other policies that are more geared toward economic growth.

    When have the Republicans ever argued WITH justification? I’m pretty sure they just argue regardless of the facts…

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  19. Moosebreath says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    “Yeah, funny thing about that. The only conclusion that I have been able to ferret out is that labor force participation before January 2009 was exclusively a phenomenon of “willingness to get off of one’s lazy butt and take a job.” I don’t know of any economist (or pseudo-economist/pundit/philosopher king/wise guy/seer/psychic/reader of entrails) who can explain how the shift away from the lack of employment=laziness phenomenon of the past happened, though.”

    The first wave of Baby Boomers hitting 62 and being able to begin collecting Social Security is often given as one explanation. Another explanation I’ve seen is that during a recession, disability claims tend to be approved more frequently. Not sure to what extent either of these explains the lower labor force participation rate.

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: There’s been a fair amount of discussion of this. The effect is to clear to be coincidence, but economists haven’t been able to identify policy differences between Rs and Ds to account for it. Dr. Krugman has looked at it and said he can’t really see the reason. I think both of your hypothesis have value. My personal take is that economists look for a macro econ explanation but the real drivers are first – less non econ stupid stuff, like long, unfunded foreign wars; and second – small ball within the agencies: a little friendlier to unions and consumers, a little less friendly to banks and defense contractors, more interested in good, efficient governance day to day, and so on.

    …what holders of capital want from government in terms of policy are good for holders of capital personally but bad for business.

    I’ve come to regard the Ds as the party of business and Rs as the party of specific businesses.

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  21. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: I’ve heard that, too, but I haven’t been able to see the correlation between boomers (of which I am one and am semi-retired as we speak) retiring and an end to laziness as the primary cause of long-term unemployment/reduction in labor force participation. It would appear to me that a boom (or boomlet) in available secure employment fueled by boomer retirement would have the opposite effect. Increases in disability claims, again should have a salutary effect on labor force participation rate in that people on disability retirements don’t need to be counted in the labor force at all (even if the look for contract/seasonal/part-time/underground work as supplements to relatively small [compared to their former salaries] income streams).

    @gVOR08: The last line of your post provides and interesting related theory. I need to consider it. It would truly be ironic if more progressive political postures turned out to be more pro-business in overall terms. Not necessarily surprising, but ironic just the same.

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  22. stonetools says:

    Factcheck.org on the labor force participation rate.Money quote:

    However, Fujita concluded, “Almost all of the decline (80 percent) in the participation rate since the first quarter of 2012 is accounted for by the increase in nonparticipation due to retirement. This implies that the decline in the unemployment rate since 2012 is not due to more discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force.”

    While the decline in the labor force participation is due to a number of factors, the biggest is due to the aging out of the baby boomers. Of course, that’s not going to stop the Republicans from blaming Obama.I bet they also believe the decline in the LFP Rate can be cured with tax cuts, too.

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  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @stonetools: I think there are a number of factors here. Yes, many of the boomers retired but not always by choice. When I was 59 my company and job migrated to Asia. I was an engineer and like many of peers could not find another job. I lived off of severance pay and savings until I reached 59 and a half at which point I could go into my IRA’s and 401 k’s without penalty. I had a couple of side businesses which supplied some income. I waited until I was 66 to start collecting Social Security so I could get the full amount. So I have officially been out of the labor force for 9 years.

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  24. Bill Lefrak says:

    It definitely was a good year for broken retirees returning back into the workforce. Check the unemployment rates by age. Compare unemployment for 18-24 year olds with those aged 55+. The dichotomy is staggering.

    Terrible year for manufacturing and mining, which pretty much have been slayed by regulations, taxes and unions. Hardest hit: poor whites and racial minorities in the Rust Belt. The irony would be lost on leftists.

    Gen. Y largely still is living at home in their parents’ basements, and to a material extent aren’t even counted amongst the measured workforce, so that’s a non starter. Again the irony would be lost on the dopey left.

    Good year for STEM-related professionals and ancillary workers, but that’ll always be the case with our aging demographics and massive healthcare spending and red tape.

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  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Bill Lefrak: Yes, the unemployment rate for youth is way higher than for 55 year olds. And has been for at least twenty years. How is that, or anything you mention, the fault of Obama or of “leftists”?

    You’re actually making one of the basic conservative errors, blaming every change on liberals. I read Russell Kirk last year. Several hours I’ll never get back. He explicitly blamed liberals for industrialization and urbanization. Stuff happens. Things change. Obama did not create the modern world. Obama is not at fault for every cherry picked bad statistic you can find.

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  26. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: It’s like Rod Dreher blaming all the problems of humanity on the development of Nominalism back in the 13th century.

    The fact that if you don’t have Nominalism you don’t develop the scientific method is, of course, beyond his comprehension.

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  27. Tyrell says:

    @Ron Beasley: Many areas
    have been affected by the trade agreements. For the region around here it was textiles. The decline started in the ’70’s. The area is dotted with the empty, once thriving mills. Gone are the mill villages: an entire culture. People pay $30 for a hooded sweatshirt made overseas. That is about $3 of labor and $4 of material. Someone is getting rich.

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  28. Ben Wolf says:

    @gVOR08: It can be simplified: “The share of national income going to people who work isn’t falling fast enough, therefore we need a capital gains tax cut.”

    That is the extent of economic policy for the Republican Party.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Is it that Dreher doesn’t comprehend the effect on the scientific method, or that he’d be OK with losing the scientific method?

    Along the same line, Kirk was constantly bitching about positivism being the enemy of conservatism. Of course in a way, he’s correct.

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  30. humanoid.panda says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Terrible year for manufacturing and mining, which pretty much have been slayed by regulations, taxes and unions. Hardest hit: poor whites and racial minorities in the Rust Belt. The irony would be lost on leftists.

    How ironic it is that a guy with the knickname Lefrak is not aware of the frackng boom and its impact on the energy sector?

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  31. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tyrell:I must admit as an engineer I was fortunate. I made good money and had savings, IRAs and 401 Ks. Most of the assemblers I worked with didn’t.

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  32. Guarneri says:

    The strong overall payroll growth in 2015 is somewhat out of sync with other measures of the economy.

    Perhaps that is because all but 10,000 of those jobs were a “seasonal adjustment” of dubious validity. A guess. As for wages, you’ve got that, and the oh-so-dynamic effect of those wage driving bartender and waiter jobs.

    If it sounds too good to be true……

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  33. Tony W says:

    @Guarneri: Meh – sorry it’s not going well for you. I make 2-1/2 times the money I made when Obama took office. I’d gladly take 8 more years of that.

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  34. Guarneri says:

    @Tony W:

    You don’t want to go there.

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  35. Tyrell says:

    Things will continue to get worse this year.

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  36. Matt says:

    @Bill Lefrak:Manufacturing was slayed decades ago by NAFTA and the various “free trade” pacts since then. The only relevance that taxes have is the lack of taxes on important goods. That’s what killed my small rural town in the rust belt. The canneries moved to Mexico after NAFTA.

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