I thought I was pretty much through writing about the Labor Department’s monthly Employment Situation report. After all, unemployment is down to 5%, a figure often associated with full employment. And despite this, the country has been adding new jobs at a clip far higher than the 125,000 or so needed monthly to absorb new entrants into the labor force.
In recent months, however, two lines of thought (if “thought” is the right description) have emerged that argue the ES figures are misleadingly optimistic and that the US is actually on the cusp of recession.
–The first is that the sharp decline in the crude oil price is not an issue of too much supply but represents a falloff in demand, presaging a drop in economic activity in the US. The fact that there’s not a much empirical evidence in favor of this view hasn’t seemed to bother its adherents.
–The second is related. Its claim is that the layoffs in petroleum- and other mining-related industries are of highly paid workers and dwarf the benefits to consumers (both individual and corporate) of lower commodity prices. Again, imminent recession is the conclusion.
The December ES reports that the US economy added 292,000 jobs last month. In addition, The October estimate was revised up from +298,000 jobs to +307,000 and the November result from +211,000 to +252,000. That’s a whopping +284,000 new jobs a month last quarter.
For 2015 in total, the economy added 2.7 million jobs.
This ES also contains figures for the loss of jobs in extractive industries– a decline of -8,000 positions in December and one of -129,000 for the full year.
A related Labor Department report, JOLT (Job Openings and Labor Turnover) indicates that in October US employers had 5.4 million unfilled job openings, about a million higher than at the last economic peak in 2007.