Sunday, 8 March 2009

February Another Horrible Month for US Jobs

US non-farm payrolls shed 651k jobs in February. However, as usual the more interesting numbers are the revisiosn and they shoeed a continuation of an already bad trend. The trend in recent months is for revisions to be on the downside and this month was no exception.

December payrolls were revised from a loss of -577k to a loss of -681k whilst January was revised from a loss of -598k to a loss of -655k. Job losses are clearly worse than the headline number indicate. Revisions to January (each month undergoes two revisions) and February could easily push losses for those months in excess of 700k.

In the past 4 months, 2.6 million jobs have been lost, the most in any 4 month period since the 4 months from June to September 1945 when 2.8 million jobs were lost.

Of course that needs to be put into perspective. 2.8 million jobs in 1945 amounted to a massive 6.8% of the labor force whereas the current 4 month contraction amounts to 1.9%. That is not meant to minimize the current situation, the US economy is shedding jobs at an alarming rate.

The US unemployment rate leapt to 8.1% in February, surpassing the peak of the early 90's recession and reaching heights not seen since December 1983. If you include people who currently want a job but are not actively looking and those working part-time but that would like to work full-time, the unemplyment rate is 14.8%.

The US employment picture gets more grim with each passing month. Job losses are intensifying although an absolute peak in monthly declines may not be too far off. At current rates it is clear that the US unemployment rate is set to push through 9% by the summer and looks likely to hit double digits by the end of the year or early in 2010.

However, as employment is a lagging indicator of interest will be when the monthly declines peak and start getting smaller, that still appears to be a few months away and wll only be obvious after revisions come through to prior months.