Boomers and the job numbers

What does the retirement of the baby boom generation have to do with the job numbers you might ask.  I never thought of my retirement impacting the unemployment rate but reading Paul Krugman in the New York Times this morning, I realize that in a strange way I am helping the economy.  Yes, I’ve read all  the stories about how we didn’t save enough, how our homes (the big retirement plan for many) have lost value, how interest rates are hurting retirees, how the numbers are going to make Medicare and Social Security go broke and on and on.  But it never occurred to me that maybe the estimated 10.000 people a day who retire might actually be good for the economy.  Think about it.  Each person who retires has the potential to open up a job for someone else.  The bottom line is there is still work that needs to be done and at some point someone will be hired to do it.

 

AARP Social Security for Dummies Book Jacket

 

Krugman writes

 …the methods the bureau uses are public — and anyone familiar with the data understands that they are “noisy,” that especially good (or bad) months will be reported now and then as a simple consequence of statistical randomness. And that in turn means that you shouldn’t put much weight on any one month’s report.

In that case, however, what is the somewhat longer-term trend? Is the U.S. employment picture getting better? Yes, it is.

Some background: the monthly employment report is based on two surveys. One asks a random sample of employers how many people are on their payroll. The other asks a random sample of households whether their members are working or looking for work. And if you look at the trend over the past year or so, both surveys suggest a labor market that is gradually on the mend, with job creation consistently exceeding growth in the working-age population.

On the employer side, the current numbers say that over the past year the economy added 150,000 jobs a month, and revisions will probably push that number up significantly. That’s well above the 90,000 or so added jobs per month that we need to keep up with population. (This number used to be higher, but underlying work force growth has dropped off sharply now that many baby boomers are reaching retirement age.)

Meanwhile, the household survey produces estimates of both the number of Americans employed and the number unemployed, defined as people who are seeking work but don’t currently have a job. The eye-popping number from Friday’s report was a sudden drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent, but as I said, you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on one month’s number. The more important point is that unemployment has been on a sustained downward trend.

But isn’t that just because people have given up looking for work, and hence no longer count as unemployed? Actually, no. It’s true that the employment-population ratio — the percentage of adults with jobs — has been more or less flat for the past year. But remember those aging baby boomers: the fraction of American adults who are in their prime working years is falling fast. Once you take the effects of an aging population into account, the numbers show a substantial improvement in the employment picture since the summer of 2011.

unemployment

unemployment (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

 

So the job growth and unemployment figures are slowly improving.  The overall trend is up for growth and down for unemployment.  I think one of the most shocking reactions to the numbers was the notion that they were somehow being manipulated and the things were actually much worse.  Do some like Jack Welsh actually want things to either get worse or at least to stay bad?  They just can’t bring themselves to admit that President Obama may be succeeding – despite Congress and the Republicans and turning things around.  Do they really need to win that badly?

Krugman says it better

…The U.S. economy is still far short of where it should be, and the job market has a long way to go before it makes up the ground lost in the Great Recession. But the employment data do suggest an economy that is slowly healing, an economy in which declining consumer debt burdens and a housing revival have finally put us on the road back to full employment.

And that’s the truth that the right can’t handle. The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories.

It is, quite simply, frightening to think that a movement this deranged wields so much political power.

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