National Data | February Jobs: Bush-era Displacement Still Not Reversed
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The weakness in U.S. labor markets has gathered extraordinary momentum, wiping away millions of jobs over the past four months alone, the Labor Department reported Friday. (Read the full BLS report: PDF) The survey of U.S. business payrolls found a job loss of 651,000 j in February, the fourth month in a row where job losses were near or above 600,000.

Unemployment rose to 8.1%, up from 7.6% in January and from what now seems an unattainably low 4.8% in February of 2008. The other employment survey - of households rather than business establishments - shows a February job decline of 351,000 - or nearly half the payroll figure. Over the last twelve months, however, the two survey are remarkably close - with the payroll survey indicating 4.141 million jobs lost and the household variant reporting a loss of 4.245 million. February saw a continuation of the reverse-displacement trend, with Hispanic jobs shrinking at a far faster clip than non- Hispanic jobs:

  • - Total employment: -351,000 (-0.25 percent)
  • - Non-Hispanic employment: -235,000 (-0.19 percent)
  • - Hispanic employment: -116,000 (-0.59 percent)
Over the past 12 months Hispanic employment declined by 717,000, or 3.5%, while the number of non-Hispanics working in the U.S. shrank by 4.2 million, or 2.9%. Hispanic unemployment skyrocketed to 10.9% in February, up from 9.7% the prior month. White unemployment all rose, albeit by a more modest 0.4 percentage points, reaching 7.3% in February. While poring over the details one small glimmer of hope sprang out to us: Labor force participation rates reversed a three-month long decline, rising (slightly) for both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

In normal times this would signal increased confidence among job seekers. In today's funk it may be seen as a sign of desperation - jobless workers looking for jobs they know aren't there. We are eternal optimists. The ratio of Hispanic to non-Hispanic job growth since the January 2001, expressed as an index that we call VDAWDI (the American Worker Displacement Index), fell by 0.4% percent in February. Since the job market fell out of bed in September, the Hispanic job growth index is down by 4.2%; the non-Hispanic index is down by 2.0%; and VDAWDI (the ratio of Hispanic to non-Hispanic job growth) is off by 2.2%. The recent collapse is alarmingly apparent in the graphic:

From January 2001 through February 2009 Hispanic employment increased by 3.97 million, or 22.1 percent, while non-Hispanic employment nudged up by 1.31 million, or 0.99 percent. Bottom line: The worst job collapse since the Great Depression hasn't erased eight-years of American worker displacement. Not yet, anyway.

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