Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today's US Demography factoid

From Richard Greene:

Detroit has not had the largest peak-to-trough decline in percentage terms among large American cities

Although it is getting close. Detroit has lost about 58% of its 1950 population; St. Louis has lost about 59%. And Detroit's population is much larger than it was in 1900; St. Louis has lost about 30% of its population since 1900 (just prior to the 1904 World's Fair, when 20 million people visited St. Louis.

Awesome. (Worth noting, though, that St. Louis has been surrounded by suburban communities, and Missouri's law (apparently) makes annexation very difficult, so the city limits of St. Louis have been essentially unchanged. I suspect Detroit has expanded grographically.)

Today's economic history quote

From Brad deLong, in material he deleted from the ms. of Slouching Toward Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, because it doesn't " the book as a whole...":

A parasitic caste or class existing by virtue of their organized ability to take a substantial share of the agricultural (or craftwork) producers' crops became the rule soon after the coming of agriculture. Such classes and castes live better albeir more dangerously than the peasants. (If they didn't live better, after all, why accept the added danger?)

Sounds almost like an anarchist's take on government to me...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Good news on the employment front--or not?

According to the BLS Employment Situation report for May, the economy added 431,000 jobs, compared with April. That's the good news.

390,000 of those were new government jobs.

So the first part of the not-so-good news is that we got only 41,000 new private sector jobs.

412,000 of the new government jobs were temporary jobs associated with the 2010 Census.

So the second part of the not-so-good news is that, absent hiring for the Census, there were 22,000 fewer government jobs. And all of that was at the state and local level. State government employment fell by 15,000 and local government employment fell by 7,000. Over the past year, state government employment fell by 32,000, while local government employment is down by 158,000. Ignoring the temporary Census jobs, federal government employment over the last year is up by only 120,000. Net, government employment is down by 70,000.

What about the 41,000 new private-sector jobs? To begin with, that's not very many new jobs, so that's not very good news.

Second--31,000 of those new jobs are in "temporary help services." That shouldn't make us too excited.

Third, construction employment fell by 35,000 jobs and is now at its lowest level since August 1996. Since peaking at 7.7 million jobs in January 2007, construction employment has declined by about 2.2 million.

In the household report, we observe, again, some good news--the unemployment rate fell modestly, to 9.7--and some not-so-good-news. The labor force fell by 322, up nearly half of the 800,000 gain in labor force articipation registered in April. Employment, measured in the household survey, fell by 35,000. So the entire reduction un unemployment came from a shrinking labor force.

And, perhaps most distressing, 45% of the unemployed have now been out of work for 27 or more weeks--by far the largest concentration of unemployment among the long-term unemployed since the beginning of the Current Population Survey in 1948.

Damn, I was hoping for another really good employment report.