July Employment Situation Presents ... the "New Normal?"

Please take a look at these charts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, included in July 2015 Employment Situation Summary. You'll find the unemployment rate to the left, and new jobs added monthly (nonfarm) to the right:


Eds Chart Aug 15


Though some nuances lie in the actual numbers, these two charts both provide useful and valuable information. The unemployment rate continues to approach 5 percent from above, and is starting to look like an asymptote (a line that approaches a value, but never quite gets there). The month-over-month jobs added numbers continue to jump around, but are strongly centered between 200,000 and 250,000 per month.


Both of these reflect the economic realities of the present as what I've characterized repeatedly, in my many blogs on this subject, as "slow growth mode" – namely, a set of circumstances in which things keep improving ever so slightly. Not enough to raise concerns of a slide back into recession (though that always remains a possibility), but nowhere near enough growth to justify Greenspan's wonderful accusation of "irrational exuberance," either.


Unemployment was a straight line from June to July at 5.3 percent. Likewise for the overall "official unemployed" count, which stood pat at 8.3 million. Of the 215,000 new jobs added in July, 107,000 were "new entrants" (which the USBLS defines as "unemployed persons who never previous worked") — a number that reflects the upsurge of college graduates entering the workforce, one or two months past most typical graduation dates.


Labor force participation of 62.6 percent was the same as June and the employment-to-population ratio (59.3 percent) is likewise unchanged and has shown little tendency to move at all in 2015. I'm starting to think we've established some kind of new status quo, which is why I use the cant phrase "new normal" in the title to this blog.


Professional and technical services (an increase of 27,000 jobs in July) continues to be a growth area, with 9,000 new jobs in computer systems design and related services, and 6,000 new jobs in architectural and engineering services. The information sector, on the other hand, continues to show little change or volatility in either direction.


Table A-14 in the report shows a nice dip in Information unemployment for July from June, down from 128,000 to 115,000 (8.9 percent), but this is offset by a shrinking workforce size for the sector (2.84 million for June versus 2.80 million for July). In short, no much has changed from a numbers perspective from June to July, and that general trend has been steady in information for the past several years, in fact.


The good news is that things aren't getting worse; the bad news is that they're not getting better, either. Hang in there, and keep hoping for some good news on economic fronts. It can't help but move the trends in a positive way.


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.