Charlotte may have spun words into her web, but some economists say data points can be just as expressive.
National Journal reported last winter on the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s new “spider chart” visualizing the labor market’s progress. With the January jobs report just a few days away, let’s check back in and see how things are moving.
The takeaway: The labor utilization indicators — which describe the situation for those who are unemployed — still stink and are further from precrisis levels than other parts of the job market right now.
A quick primer: The “spider chart” looks complicated at first glance. But, really, it’s just a way of comparing several job-market indicators at once, and seeing how their progress stacks up. In this instance, the Atlanta Fed is looking at 13 different measures of job-market health.
The chart has two rings: One in the middle, which represents the recession-era low point for each indicator, and one on the outside, which represents the indicator’s precrisis level. You can see how close each indicator is to getting back to where it was before the financial crisis by looking at its progress along the spoke.
It probably won’t surprise you that the dark blue line representing the latest data is farthest from the outer ring, on the whole, for the part of the chart that includes the measurements of unemployment, a separate measure of people who aren’t working but want to be, and of people who have to work part time for economic reasons, not personal preference. For these individuals, the recovery is moving at a snail’s pace, even as employers are posting more job openings (seen on the opposite side of the chart).
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its latest employment figures on Friday morning, reporters and politicians are likely to seize on two numbers: The unemployment rate and payroll growth. But these can be tricky figures to decipher, reflecting people departing the labor market rather than getting jobs, or showing weakness due to bad weather, respectively. Looking at a range of labor-market indicators, over time, is a good way to avoid falling into the trap of focusing too much on a single data point. But it’s also important to remember that the Atlanta Fed’s chart doesn’t tell the whole story, either. Just a broader piece of it.
What We're Following See More »
In a long-awaiting new rule, the Food and Drug Administration will ban sale of all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—to those under 18. The rule takes effect in 90 days. It's part of a larger package of regulations that "gives FDA authority to regulate—but not to ban—all tobacco products, from e-cigarettes to cigars and hookahs." Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that would bump the legal age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Sen. Ben Sasse, the most prominent elected official to declare that he's #NeverTrump, wrote an open letter on Facebook to the "majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can’t find a healthy leader who can take us forward together." Calling to mind recent conversations at a Fremont, Neb., Walmart, the senator pitted the presumptive general election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as such a "terrible choice" that there would be an appetite for another candidate to emerge. In a parenthetical aside to reporters, Sasse ruled himself out. "Such a leader should be able to campaign 24/7 for the next six months," he wrote. "Therefore he/she likely can’t be an engaged parent with little kids." Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted in a private recording obtained by Politico that Trump hurts his reelection chances.
"Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, approved a joint proposal presented by Judicial Watch and the State Department to take the depositions of officials" involved in the setup and use of Hillary Clinton's private email server, "including Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, Huma Abedin, a senior adviser to Clinton, and Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who serviced and maintained the server." He said Clinton could be deposed later on, though that may not be necessary.
Donald Trump will not self-finance his general election campaign as he did the primary season, instead relying on "his expansive personal Rolodex" to create what he called a “world-class finance organization."