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Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.9%; Magazine Employment Falls Below 100,000

The unemployment rate improved yet again and is now 5.

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: October 6, 2014

The unemployment rate improved yet again and is now 5.9%. The improvement again comes mainly from the exit of workers from the labor force. Last month, -97,000 left the workforce. The labor force has decreased by -365,000 since the most recent peak in March. If the labor force was growing roughly with population, it would be approximately 1 million higher than it is today. The labor participation rate has dropped since a peak in March of 63.2%, and is now 62.7%. Employment increased in the household survey (which includes self employment) by 232,000 last month. Since last year, employment is up by 2.33 million. The number of workers who left the workforce in the last 12 months is 1.889 million. Economists argue about the natural level of unemployment, but they generally agree that "full employment" is in the 4% to 6% range. I am not aware of previous times where such levels were reached through labor force contraction rather than growth. Reaching full employment in this manner is probably not what the economists had in mind. It is common for the unemployment rate to rise when the economy is growing as idle workers flock to the market faster than jobs can absorb them at that time.  That process usually lasts about six months. This recovery has been quite odd in this regard. Printing Employment A disappointing milestone was reached in the latest  employment data: periodicals employment fell below 100,000 for the first time. Magazines are, of course, one of the most important print formats. BLS data for periodicals go back to only 1990. One would probably have to go back 50 years to find a comparable employment level. Since last year, periodicals employment is down -6.8%, indicating the further shift away from magazines to other advertising and editorial formats. Printing employment fell by 900 workers, all of which were in production, according to BLS estimates. That is unlikely; it is probably within the range of statistical error. No doubt some managers were handed their walking papers last month. Public relations employment is up +4.9% since last year. This data series continues to be robust compared to other content creation positions. Ad agency employment excluding PR and graphic design employment are also faring well compared to last year. The summary chart is below (click to enlarge) employment table 100614 # # #

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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