I was at Cornell University in Ithaca New York giving a presentation on mortgages on Friday when the jobs report was released, so I had to wait to read the report in its entirety. Here is my after-seminar report from Friday while waiting to go to dinner.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 9.75 million Americans that are “unemployed” and there are 92.02 million Americans that are “not in the labor force” for a grand total of 101.77 million working age Americans that do not have a job. Back in April 2000, only 5.48 million Americans were unemployed and only 69.27 million Americans were “not in the labor force” for a grand total of 74.75 million Americans without a job. That means that the number of working age Americans without a job has risen by 27 million since the year 2000.
However, the banner headline in the media was “288,000 Jobs Added!!” What was NOT in the headlines was that the number of people in the labor force fell by 806,000. In other words, 518,000 more workers LEFT the labor force than joined it in April.
In addition, the Number Of Workers Discouraged Not in Labor Force Searched For Work rose by 783,000 in April. That figure is back to the alleged “end” of the recession (according to the NBER). So, does this mean that the U.S. can announced that the Labor Market’s recession has ended?
No. The following economic indicators have declined since the end of 2008: real median household income, hourly wage growth (YoY), labor force participation rate, and M2 Money Velocity.
The Federal Reserve has attempted to depress interest rates with quantitative easing (balance sheet purchases and zero-interest rate policy), but the labor market is only back to end of recession levels.
According to the Taylor Rule, The Fed should be raising the Fed Funds Rate Target (should be 1.52%, but Fed Funds Target still at 0.25%). The point is for mortgage lenders is that the number of qualified borrowers have been reduced because of the recession and bubble burst and small increases in interest rates are unlikely to have an effect.
And lastly, of course, mortgage purchase applications remain lower than at the “end” of the recession in June 2009. Mortgage borrowers are as discouraged as unemployed workers.
Note: My colleague at University of South Carolina, Jean Helwege, wrote me and said “Maybe it is because of the run-up in the stock market and people can now stop looking for work.” Possibly, but BLS doesn’t ask those questions. What we do know if the mortgage purchase applications and originations remain depressed after the housing and credit bubble burst, and that is correlated with declining wages, real income and the number of discouraged workers.
Anecdotal evidence? I know two kids from Columbus OH whose grandfather gave them both large Trust Funds. They are in their 20s and one doesn’t work and the other dabbles in low paying jobs (part-time). But we don’t know how pervasive that is across the country.