Tag Archives: jobs

Good News – The Unemployment Rate Increased

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had some good news for us yesterday. The unemployment rate increased from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent.

You read that right: it’s good news that the unemployment rate increased. In fact, economists have been waiting for it to increase, and have been a little disappointed that it didn’t increase sooner.

This might sound a little balmy, but there’s method to this madness. It’s all in the reason the unemployment rate increased.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people divided by the total number of unemployed plus employed. The BLS collects these numbers by contacting 60,000 households every month.

To be “unemployed”, you have to be actively looking for work. People who are aren’t actively looking aren’t included, even if they’d like to be working.

During a severe recession like we just had, lots of people get so discouraged about finding work that they give up and stop looking – or, as economists say, they exit the workforce. They’re no longer considered either employed or unemployed if they’re not actively looking.

When job markets improve after the downturn, many of these discouraged workers again start to look for work. This is a good sign for the economy, and typically indicates that things will continue to improve.

In October, the number of unemployed in the U.S. increased by 170,000, to 12.3 million. At the same time, the number of employed increased by 410,000, to 143.4 million. As a result, the unemployment rate increased from 7.8 to 7.9 percent.

I’ll be anxious to see the JOLT (Job Openings, Layoffs, and Turnover) data that will be coming out on Tuesday, November 6. It will provide more details about exactly what is going on in the job market, and what is (likely) causing it.

The Nerve of Some People: Multiple Job Holders

These days, when more than 12 million Americans are unable to find jobs, it’s important to remember that some people not only have one job, but more than one. These greedy workers actually have the nerve to be taking someone else’s job from them.

Working more than one job? Why would anyone want to do such a thing?

Well, off the top of my head, maybe … to live. Wages for many jobs are hardly extravagance these days. Someone working full time making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is going to be grossing $14,500 a year. That comes to just over $1,200 a month, even before any deductions or taxes.

That’s going to be a little rough for, say, a single parent to live off. It’s going to be tough even for a single person. How are they going to get to work? Public transit – where it exists – is expensive; more likely they’re going to have to have a car. Insurance alone is going to take a big bite. And don’t get me started about gas. Then there’s rent. Utilities. Food. Clothes. Child care. It’s pretty hard to find and keep a job unless you have a phone. When people complain that even the “poor” in America have phones and TVs and cars, they’re forgetting that these are virtual necessities for living in our country. If you don’t believe that, try getting by without them for a few months.

And don’t even think about health insurance.

To be fair, there are other reasons people have multiple jobs. Some might not be able to find full-time work, and instead have two or more part-time jobs. Some might be changing careers. Some might just enjoying working, or like variety.

Regardless of the reason, some do. But how many?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.8 percent of the people employed in the U.S. in September 2012 were working at more than one job. That’s actually down from a recent peak of 6.5 percent in November 1996, and it’s the lowest level in the 8 years of data available.

It turns out that when jobs are hard to find, second (and third, and … ) jobs are also hard to find, so that the percentage of workers holding multiple jobs tends to decrease when unemployment increases. In other words, they’re negatively correlated.

But not perfectly. The correlation between the unemployment rate and the percentage of multiple job holders is -0.54. They usually move in opposite directions, but not always.

So who are these job hogs? That 4.8 percent means comes to about 6.9 million people working two or more jobs. They’re pretty evenly split between men (51 percent) and women (49 percent). Most of them (54 percent) have one full-time job and one (or more) part-time job(s). About 25 percent of them have two (or more) part-time jobs. And less than 4 percent have two (or more?) full-time jobs. The rest (17 percent) have jobs with hours that vary.

So here’s to those 6.9 million hard-working, job-hogging multiple job holders. Whether they’re moonlighting just to make ends meet or just enjoying the variety, they’re not just producing extra for the economy. They’re probably paying extra taxes, too.