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Employment

Is The Job Market as Healthy as the Unemployment Levels Suggest


-by Brandon Michaels and Chris Adnams


Are reduced unemployment levels merely a short-term effect of a historically low participation rate from working age US citizens?


by Brandon Michaels and Chris Adnams




Current unemployment levels are 3.4%, the lowest level of unemployment in 54 years.




The US employment participation rate, measuring the percentage of Americans willing to work, has increased to 62.4%, up from a low of 60.1% in April 2020 yet still suppressed relative to the 2008-2019 average of 63.7%.



There are 5.7 million unemployed people, a figure that has remained somewhat constant over the last 9 months.




There are 11 million job openings, a significantly higher number than pre-covid’s 7.5-7.0 million by roughly 4.0-3.5 million available positions.

This higher than typical number of available job openings in conjunction with the number of unemployed persons leads to a job/person ratio of 1.93 or roughly 2 jobs openings for every person unemployed.

Comparing job openings to the number of unemployed people represents a labor shortage of roughly 5.3 million people, a figure historically unmatched over the last twenty years.


If workforce participation rate rises to 64%, an increase of just over 3.3 million willing workers (based on a working age population as of December 2022 of 207 million people), the labor shortage could be reduced from 5.3 million people to 2 million people. If increased participation happens alongside a contraction in job availability as high interest rates slow economic activity, a previous labor shortage can turn into an excess of available workers if job openings continue to trend back to pre-covid levels.





These employment figures exist simultaneous to an increase in consumer debt. The average American has had to deal with the effect of high inflation and a higher cost of goods and services, part of which has been absorbed by heightened wage growth but also by a willingness on behalf of consumers to dip into savings and take on more debt.


Conclusion: The unknown in this analysis is if this trend of increased participation and subsequent hirings will continue until it meets the point where jobs are not as readily available.

That being said, if sustained high costs of living, continued reduction in individual savings, and increasing consumer debt can be correlated with a desire to join the workforce and contribute to household income, not an unrealistic expectation, it is reasonable to believe the amount of participation in the American work force will continue to rise.

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