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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

March 6, 2014 at 10:44 AM

The clouds in the unemployment rate

Washington officials are trumpeting that the state lost fewer jobs in the Great Recession than previously estimated, along with the unemployment rate falling in January to 6.4 percent. Two other pieces of data are worth dwelling on. One is labor-force participation. The resident labor force in January was actually 18,000 smaller than it was in the same month of 2012.

Thus we see playing out at the state level a national phenomenon. The available workforce nationally has fallen to a 35-year low. The reasons behind this shift are the source of considerable research and debate. Some of it is no doubt because of the voluntary retirement of older baby boomers. But other causes include forced retirement of older workers and discouraged workers. Nearly three people are chasing every available job.

Which brings us to the second issue: 6.4 percent unemployment is the narrowest measure. The U-6 measure by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is wider and arguably more offers a more accurate gauge of the labor market’s health. It includes part-time workers who want full-time employment, as well as workers who have stopped actively seeking employment. Last year, the average U-6 for the United States was 13.8 percent. In Washington, it stood at 14 percent.

And Don’t Miss: A lackluster start to the year | Tim Duy’s Fed Watch

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Happy days are here

Household income hit a high

Just not your household

Comments | More in | Topics: unemployment

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