The jobs market is far from healed. But just how far?
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is experimenting with a new way to show the progress of the recovery. The unemployment rate grabs headlines every month, but the health of the labor market also hinges on things like the number of people who quit their jobs or who work part-time, and how many employers say they anticipate hiring in the next three months.
So the Atlanta Fed cooked up a way to look at a number of parts of the labor market in one handy graphic, which they've dubbed a "spider chart" (below). The inner yellow circle represents the fourth quarter of 2009, when the jobs recovery was just starting. The dark-red outer ring represents the levels of different variables at the beginning of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. The closer each dot progresses up a spoke from the inner to the outer ring, the more that indicator has healed.
Leading indicators, so named for their propensity to change before other economic variables, such as the initial claims for unemployment benefits, are much closer to their pre-recession levels than the unemployment rate, for example.
There are some caveats. The Atlanta Fed notes that the chart is "very much a work in progress." It's not clear that fourth-quarter 2007 levels are the best benchmarks of success for all of the variables. And spider charts aren't useful for monitoring the labor market over the long run because some variables can't grow indefinitely while others can.
Still, it's a neat way to visualize where we've come from and where we're headed.