The only good news in the September unemployment numbers was that the market had sold off 203 points the day before on worries over these figures. So the drop Friday morning hasn’t been very steep so far.
But the numbers were bad, no doubt about it. How bad?
Let me count the ways.
1. The number of people collecting a paycheck fell by 263,000 for September.
2. That was much worse than the projected decline of just 175,000.
3. That quashes hopes, rising recently, that the economy would stop shedding jobs soon and might even start producing them by the end of 2009.
4. The unemployment rate declined 0.1 percentage points to 9.8%. Why is that bad news? Because the drop was caused by a big contraction in the workforce. With discouraged workers giving up the job hunt, the work force declined by571,000 in September.
5. If the work force had held steady in September, the unemployment rate would have increased to 10.2%, Briefing.com calculates.
6. Weekly hours worked fell by 0.1 hours to 33.0 hours. Companies are not hiring and they’re not giving those still working more hours. The hourly work week number has to go up before jobs can start to increase.
7. Government payrolls declined 53,000 largely on a decline in the number of state and local workers. Blame state budget cuts for that and those cuts are likely to keep on coming in the next few months as states and cities struggle to balance their budgets in the face of plunging tax revenues.
I simply don’t see anything good in this data.