Last Friday, as with the first Friday in each month, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics published its Employment Situation summary for the preceding month (April 2010). This time the numbers are all over the place, reflecting some positives and negatives, plus plenty of status quo unchanged values as well. Let’s march through the high points and attribute them to one of these categories (Up, Down, Sideways).
Upward Trends/Positive Changes
Job gains aer starting to spread across more industry sectors, including manufacturing, professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, plus federal positions (thanks mostly to hiring for the 2010 census). 195,000 people also moved from the ranks of the unemployed into the employed column, the biggest recent move of this kind in many months. And finally, finally, finally numbers edged up for the Information industry: employment in this section is finally moving back down, from 10.1 percent in April 2009 to 9.4 percent in April 2010. Unemployment gains and losses were also adjusted upward for February and March, 2010, from -14,000 to +39,000 and +162,000 to +230,000, respectively. The most positive number is that for the increase in the size of the US labor force for April which, at 290,000, is the biggest jump in employment in the past two years.
Downward Trends/Negative Changes
The overall unemployment number increased slightly from 9.7 percent (where it had held steady for January through March, 2010) to 9.9 percent. Likewise, numbers for long-term unemployed persons — those out of work for 27 weeks or more — continued to climb to a total of 6.7 million (such individuals now comprise 45.9 percent of all unemployed workers). The numbers of “marginally attached” workers in the labor force (those who weren’t working, but wanted to and were available for work, and had searched for employment sometime in the past twelve months) also edged upward from 2.1 million in April 2009 to 2.4 in April 2010. The increase in discouraged workers (those not currently seeking employment because they believe no work is available to them) is even steeper: up from just under half a million (457,000) in April 2009 to 1.2 million in April 2010.
Sideways Numbers Show Little or No Change
Unemployment rates by demography that are little changed include those for Caucasians, adult men, adult women, teenagers, blacks and Hispanics. Involuntary part-time workers (those who’d like full-time jobs but can’t find any, who elect to work part-time rather than not at all) remained more or less unchanged at 9.2 million overall. Overall unemployment numbers are also pretty static in these industry sectors: wholesale trade, retail trade, information, and financial activities.
What Does All This Tell Us?
Things continue to thaw or improve on a “little by little, here and there” basis. This tells me that gradual improvement is taking hold in more places over time, but still in small increments rather than by leaps and bounds. I do see signs of improvement at present, with more to come, but it looks like any recovery will be slow and drawn out rather than quick and widespread. For IT workers, this means my ongoing mantra remains “Keep cool. Stay put.” I wish the news were different, but don’t we all?