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America’s Scariest Charts – Updated 24October 2020

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Posted on 27 October 2020 Written by Constantin Gurdgiev, TrueEconomics.Blogspot.in The economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic has nothing more serious than the massive impact on US employment. I have created a collection of graphics covering this which I call "America's Scariest Charts". Here is a summary from multiple posts at True Economics.Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side, for social media buttons.Let's take a look at the weekly (higher frequency) data unemployment claims. First, initial unemployment claims, with data coverage through the week of October 17th:The chart above shows 1-month cumulative initial unemployment claims, smoothing some of weekly volatility in the series.Current reading stands at 3,194,750 which is above the

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posted on 27 October 2020

Written by , TrueEconomics.Blogspot.in

The economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic has nothing more serious than the massive impact on US employment. I have created a collection of graphics covering this which I call "America's Scariest Charts". Here is a summary from multiple posts at True Economics.

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020


Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side, for social media buttons.


Let's take a look at the weekly (higher frequency) data unemployment claims. First, initial unemployment claims, with data coverage through the week of October 17th:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

The chart above shows 1-month cumulative initial unemployment claims, smoothing some of weekly volatility in the series.

Current reading stands at 3,194,750 which is above the 2008-2011 crisis peak of 3,169,786 and only slightly below all-time pre-COVID19 high of 3,313,000 attained in January 1975.

In absolute level numbers, preliminary first-time claims for the week of October 17, 2020 stand at 756,617 which is still 3 times the rate of first-time claims filings in the last week before COVID19 pandemic onset (March 14, 2020). The good news is, preliminary estimate for the new claims for the week of October 17 suggest a decline in new claims filings of 73,125 on week prior - the fastest rate of reductions in 10 weeks. However, overall average weekly decline in first-time claims over the last 10 weeks has been rather unimpressive at 8,212. At this rate of improvement, it will take almost 62 weeks to draw current first-time claims down to the levels seen in the last pre-COVID19 week.

In line with the crisis timing, average duration of unemployment is climbing up, too:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

Based on monthly data through September 2020, average duration of unemployment is about to hit pre-crisis average in October. This sounds like a good thing, until you realise that the duration of unemployment fell to historically low levels as COVID19 crisis unfolded because of the unprecedented rate of jobs losses and unemployment claims increases (see net chart below). It remains to be seen how it will behave in months ahead.

Past three recessions have been associated with increasing average duration of unemployment through recovery periods. They have also been associated with longer periods of elevated duration. In fact, in the last three recessions, average duration of unemployment never reached pre-recession levels, implying that long-term unemployment got worse in every recovery period since 1990 on. If this trend is consistent with the COVID19 recession, U.S. long term unemployment duration will rise once again.

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

For the next chart, consider employment index dynamics though September 2020:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

Despite the headline 'historically fast' recovery, actual employment remains in dire state, with current dynamics through September 2020 indicating the third worst employment performance in the history of the modern economy. Based on the 3-months average gains in seasonally-adjusted employment, it will take us another 8 moths before we regain pre-crisis peak employment levels, implying the 5th fastest recovery in employment in history. Based on September rate of improvement, the process will take another 16 months, which would make the current recovery the fifth slowest on record. Based on the dynamics of change in the jobs recovery since May 2020, we can expect the jobs recession to last 45 months, which would make it the 3rd worst recession in history. So far, the average rate of decline in the jobs gained per month during the recovery is 15% per month.

In the Great Recession, it took the economy 76 weeks to recover from trough of the recession to pre-recession peak employment. The average monthly rate of recovery from the trough until regaining pre-recession peak was 0.128% per month. This would put the month when we would recover from the COVID19 pandemic to July 2025, making the COVID19 pandemic a second worst recession in history after the Great Recession.

Non-Farm Payrolls

Here's update the data for Total Nonfarm Payrolls through September:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

At the end of September, total non-farm payrolls stood at 141,855,000 - up 1,137,000 on August, and still down 11,322,000 on pre-COVID19 peak. We are now just over half-way to the recovery from COVID19 trough of 130,317,000 reached in April 2020. Since reaching trough, non-farm payrolls rose, on average, at a monthly rate of 2,308,000, which means that the latest increase over the month of September has been substantially slower than the average rate of recovery.

At September rate of jobs recovery, it will take us almost 10 months to regain pre-COVID19 peak.

Current levels of payrolls are consistent with February 2016 levels, implying that even after we are still missing some 4.5 years worth of jobs creation.

Here is a genuinely scary table, highlighting the fact that in the COVID19 pandemic, the U.S. sustained jobs losses of the combined magnitude equivalent to those suffered in all recessions from 1980 through the Great Recession:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

And while the recovery is clearly under way, broader indicators of the jobs markets trends are still pointing to a horrific aftermath of the first of this pandemic, with the second wave now in full swing (see more on this here).

U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate is Falling, Again

One of thee major casualties of the COVID19 pandemic has been the U.S. labor market. However, with an allegedly robust recovery under way, we are seeing significant improvements across some metrics of labor markets health. In some, but not all.

Take labor force participation rate:

America's Scariest Charts - Updated 24October 2020

Labor force participation rate is a critical metric for gauging employment conditions in the economy, because it reflects not only the availability of jobs in the market, but the perception amongst the workers of thee health of the market. Since the start of the pandemic, LFP rate fell to its 2020 low of 60.0 in April, before recovering to the pandemic period high of 62.0 in July. Since then, it trended down once again and in September fell to 61.4.

Let's consider this for a second. During the Great Recession and the Global Financial Crisis, the lowest LFP rate reached was 63.8. In the Dot.Com recession, that number was 65.9. In the 1990s recession it was 65.5. For the entire decade of the 1980s, the lowest reading for LFP rate was 63.0. In fact, the only decade with lower LFP rate than current is the decade of the 1970s. February 1977 was the last time we saw LFP rate at the level below September 2020 reading.

Things are marginally better for another measure of labor markets health: the Employment to Population Ratio (EPR), which currently sits at 56.7, lower than any recession reading prior to the COVID19 pandemic since the first recession of the 1980s. March 1983 was the last time we saw this reading until the COVID19 hit.

Give it a thought, folks, a 'historical recovery' is the one where there are just 567 people working (part time or full time. minimum wage or living wage) per each 1,000 working age adults. Or, described differently, an economy where only 614 working age adults our of 1,000 are either in employment or confident enough of their prospects for finding a job to bother searching for one.


Previous post in this series: America's Scariest Charts - Updated 27 September 2020.


Sources for this article:

America's Scariest Charts: Duration of Unemployment & Employment Index

America's Scariest Charts: Non-farm Payrolls

U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate is Falling, Again

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