Friday, August 07, 2015

roughly 60% of the civilian work force is fully employed and 40% are marginally employed or unemployed

zerohedge |  Officially, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 5.6%, meaning 5.6% of the work force is temporarily out of a job and actively seeking another one. This low number reflects nearly full employment, as 3% to 4% of the work force is typically in the process of quitting/being laid off and finding another job.

Typically, periods of nearly full employment are economically good times, as household income is bolstered and employers have to pay a bit more to hire workers when the labor market is tight.
But these do not feel like good times for most households, despite the low unemployment rate. Earnings are stagnant for 90% of the work force, and employers are only paying a competitive premium for workers in very select fields (programmers adept at Python and mobile user interfaces, etc.)

This creates a cognitive dissonance between the low official unemployment rate and the real economy, which is behaving like an economy with much higher rates of unemployment, i.e. sluggish hiring, stagnant wages, difficulty in finding jobs, and very little pressure on employers to pay more for typical jobs.

Let's start by trying to calculate the work force--the number of people who could get a job if they wanted to. This isn't quite as straightforward as we might imagine, because the two primary agencies that compile these statistics use slightly different categories.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone 16 and older who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. The BLS reckons this to be about 250 million people, out of a total population of about 317 million residents: Household Data (BLS)
The BLS subtracts 93 million people who are not in the labor force, leaving about 157 million people in the civilian work force--roughly half the nation's population.

Of these, 148.8 million have a job of some sort and 8.6 million are unemployed.

The Census Bureau calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. (You can download various data on the U.S. population on this Census Bureau website: Age and Sex Composition in the United States: 2012. I am using Table 1 data.)

The Census Bureau places the civilian noninstitutional population at 308.8 million in 2012. Since roughly 4 million people are born and 2.6 million die in the U.S. each year, we can adjust this upward by roughly 3.5 million to bring it up to date (mid-2015) to 312 million.