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April Printing Employment +1,000; Is It Real?

Printing employment in April rose by 1,

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: May 7, 2014

Printing employment in April rose by 1,000 workers. It is always hard to determine if these were actual workers or if the changes were the result of issues with the estimation models of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Production workers were the greatest part of the increase (800). Publishing workers continue to decline, but workers in advertising maintained their rise, with much of it from public relations. Advertising Age recently summarized their latest research that 35% of their revenues are now from digital media.  Because public relations does not involve the purchase of space (print advertising) or time (broadcast advertising), much of the digital media activities are managed in that area. The rise in printing workers (which can be wiped out in a minor statistical revision) sent us to the history books. Since 2004, every year except 2009 has had at least two months with increases in the number of workers. In that time, the number of workings in commercial printing has decreased by -227,000. For these first four months of 2014, the increase in 1000 workers created a net gain for 2014 of 300. Compared to April 2013, the number of workers is still down by -8,000. (click chart to enlarge) Employment 050614 As for the national unemployment report, it was bizarre, with the usual mixed salad of data that allowed vested interests to support their causes. Employment data in their first releases are sloppy, and do not have the precision that are implied: but they are the only data we have, and the data collection and reporting are top-notch. If anyone disagrees with the data, most all of the methodology is publicly available for them to adjust the data for their needs. The decrease in the unemployment rate to 6.3% was caused by an -806,000 decrease in the number of people employed (household survey). But the household survey is more subject to swings in direction than many other data series. The accompanying decrease in the labor participation rate (62.8%) to lows not seen since 1978 should be of great concern. Most employment data do not adjust for population growth, but the BLS does publish the employment-to-population ratio, which does. That stayed the same compared to last month, but has risen from 58.6% last year to 58.9% now. There are +2 million more people employed since last year, but there are +4 million more people no longer in the workforce. The unemployment rate is misleading; focus more on the number of people employed and the labor participation rate, and you can get a sense that the workforce is far more dynamic with numerous cross currents. The glacial pace of improvement in employment does not reflect those movements. # # #

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink.com's Economics and Research Center.

What do you think? Please send feedback to Dr. Joe by emailing him at drjoe@whattheythink.com.

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