The bleak jobs report

The bleak jobs report

The official unemployment rate ticked up in June to 9.2 percent, according the latest jobs report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as employers added a paltry 18,000 positions to their payrolls last month. Those numbers are bad enough, but other measures of who is working--and who isn't--paint perhaps an even more dire picture.

Take, for example, the latest measure of the country's employment-population ratio.

Defined by the bureau as the "proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population aged 16 years and over that is employed," this snapshot of the country's labor market doesn't get the same kind of play as the unemployment rate in news reports.

But some analysts think it is a better way to understand the unemployment situation. The Monthly Black Worker Report, published out of the University of California's Labor Center, highlights the employment-population ratio number because "it can be interpreted as the probability that a member of the population is employed." Here's more about why the organization likes this data point (as well as a caveat to keep in mind when thinking about these numbers):

The [employment-population ratio] captures employment prospects better than the unemployment rate, since jobless individuals who are not in the labor force (including discouraged workers) are not calculated in the unemployment rate. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that all persons not employed are without a job and desiring employment. Some people might not be employed because of their status as a full-time student, homemaker, retiree, or disabled person. Hence, an employment-population ratio of 60% does not imply an unemployment rate of 40%.

As of last month, the employment-population ratio for all workers ages 16 and up stood at 58.2 percent--the same rate it was in December 2009. In June 2001, the national ratio was 63.7 percent.

There are significant racial disparities within this data. White people were more likely than the national average to hold a job, according to the bureau's June report, with 59.3 percent of them employed. Latinos, too, bested the current national rate, at 58.6 percent.

The employment-population ratio for black workers, by contrast, stood at 51.1 percent.

The gap between white and black people widens if you take out younger workers, especially for men. Exactly 68 percent of white men age 20 and up were employed as of last month while the same number for black men 20 and older was 56.7 percent--a gap of nearly 12 points. The gap between white and black women 20 and older was 2.4 points, meanwhile, at 55.2 percent and 52.8 percent, respectively.

There is some job growth coming to Chicago, mostly prominently in retail work; Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens are all in expansion mode in the city itself. But June's job report points at the broad stagnation in the labor market. That won't help Chicago neighborhoods that have struggled with job loss over the past several years, and communities like North Lawndale, which, as the Reporter found in an investigation published last summer, was struggling with the nation's highest rate of chronic unemployment as of 2008.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

Leave a comment