August Job Collapse—And American Worker Displacement Resumes
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The August jobs report, released on Friday, delivered startling bad news about economic conditions. Non-farm payrolls declined by 84,000 positions, pushing the unemployment rate up to 6.1%—the highest in nearly five years.

In the blink of an eye, the prospect of an end-of-year rebound collapsed, and the policy chatter changed from interest rates possibly moving higher to the necessity for further easing in rates.

As usual, little attention was given to the "other" set of employment figures, those generated by household survey. Good thing, since that would have ruined the weekend entirely.

Household employment fell by a whopping 342,000 jobs, or more than four times the drop in payroll employment.

More important from our perspective, the Hispanic workforce, comprised disproportionately of legal and illegal immigrants, enjoyed an increase in jobs despite the general bloodbath.  Here are employment figures for August:

  • Total employment: -342,000  (-0.235 percent)
  • Non-Hispanic: -359,000 (-0.286 percent)
  • Hispanic: +17,000 (+0.083 percent)
For some months, we have noted what seemed to be a reversal in American worker displacement. For 3 of the past 8 months, Hispanics have lost ground relative to non-Hispanics - a phenomenon we've attributed to stricter workplace enforcement of immigration laws and a weaker job market.

But after eight straight months of national job loss, the displacement of American workers is still evident. Here are year-to-date (January through August) employment figures:

  • Total employment: -771,000  (-0.53 percent)
  • Non-Hispanic: -903,000 (-0.72 percent)
  • Hispanic: +132,000 (+0.65 percent)
In other words, nearly one million (903,000) non-Hispanics have lost jobs this year -and many of them were supplanted by the 132,000 Hispanic (= immigrant) workers who found gainful employment over this period.

The trends in Hispanic and non-Hispanic employment since the start of the Bush Administration are tracked the following graphic:

August 2008 VDAWDI

Since January 2001 Hispanic employment has increased by 4,343,000, or 26.9 percent, while non-Hispanic employment grew by 3,367,000, or 2.8 percent.

The ratio of Hispanic to non-Hispanic job indexes, which we call VDAWDI (the American Worker Displacement Index), rose to 123.5 in August from 123.0 in July.

The record high for VDAWDI, 124.1, was recorded in August 2007 - the month that U.S. economic growth started to decelerate.

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