Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently?

Dated: June 22 2020

Views: 7

Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently? | MyKCM

The New York Times recently ran an article regarding unemployment titled: Don’t Cheer Too Soon. Keep an Eye on the Core Jobless Rate. The piece suggests we should look at unemployment numbers somewhat differently. The author of the article, Jed Kolko, is a well-respected economist who is currently the Chief Economist at Indeed, the world’s largest online jobs site. Previously, he was Chief Economist and VP of Analytics at Trulia, the online real estate site.

Kolko suggests “the coronavirus pandemic has broken most economic charts and models, and all the numbers we regularly watch need a closer look.” He goes on to explain that the decline in the unemployment number reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) earlier this month was driven by a drop in temporary layoffs. If we strip those out, we’re left with what Kolko calls the core unemployment rate. Many economists have struggled with how to deal with the vast number of temporary layoffs, as a complete shutdown of the economy has never happened before. As the article states, in the last unemployment report:

“73 percent of all unemployed people said they were temporarily unemployed, which means they had a return-to-work date or they expected to return to work in six months. Before the pandemic, temporary unemployment was never more than one-quarter of total unemployment.”

The core unemployment rate handles this issue and also deals with another concern economists have discussed for years: the exclusion of the marginally attached. These are people who are available and want to work, but count as out of the labor force rather than unemployed because they haven’t searched for work in the past four weeks.

Kolko’s core rate does three things:

  1. Takes out temporary unemployment
  2. Retains the rest of the standard unemployment definition: permanent job losers, job leavers, and people returning to or entering the labor force
  3. Adds in the marginally attached

Removing the temporarily unemployed makes sense according to the article:

“Initial pandemic relief efforts focused on money for people to manage a temporary loss of income and funds to keep businesses afloat until they could bring their workers back. The hope and the goal is for the temporarily unemployed to return to their old jobs, rather than have them lose their jobs and have to search for new ones when jobs have become scarcer.”

The Bad News and the Good News

Clearly, the adjustments Kolko makes dramatically impact the way we look at unemployment. The bad news is, using his core rate, there was an increase in unemployment from April to May. The conventional rate reported by the BLS showed a decrease in unemployment.

The good news is that the core rate compares more favorably to the last recession in 2008. Here’s the breakdown:Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

The unemployment rate is a key indicator of how the economy is doing. Heading into a highly contested election this November, the BLS report releasing next week will be scrutinized like no other by members on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Kolko’s take is just one additional way to evaluate how unemployment is impacting American families.

Blog author image

Linda and Richard Askue

We Want to Become your Real Estate Agents for Life! We have a highly successful Team of Real Estate Professionals. If you’re looking to buy, sell or invest in Metro Atlanta and its' surrounding a....

Latest Blog Posts

Did You Know That 93% of Americans Believe a Home Is a Better Investment Than Stocks?

A recent Survey of Consumer Finances study released by the Federal Reserve reveals the net worth of homeowners is forty times greater than that of renters. If you’re

Read More

Here's 4 Major Reasons Households in Forbearance Won’t Lose Their Homes to Foreclosure

There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially

Read More

Did You Know That Some Buyers Prefer Smaller Homes?

Over the past year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what we consider most important in our lives. The place we call home is one of the biggest things many of us are

Read More

We're NAMAR's Million Dollar Club Recipients !!

Celebrating BIG for this FABULOUS Achievement!! We have an AMAAAAAAZING Team & We Could Not Be Prouder!! A Very Special 'Thank You' to our Affiliates for ALL THAT THEY!!

Read More