How the Economy Still Stinks for the Unemployed, in One Chart

Parts of the job market are getting better, but this graphic from the Atlanta Fed shows how bad the situation still is for some.

Miriam Abrego, 55, picks up fliers advertising jobs at the Foothill Employment and Training July 6, 2012 in Pasadena, California.
National Journal
Catherine Hollander
See more stories about...
Catherine Hollander
Feb. 4, 2014, midnight

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 »
BAD NEWS FOR CLINTON
Trump and Clinton Equally Disliked
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to the most recent Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally disliked. The poll, conducted between July 18 and July 25, shows both major party candidates for president are viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 58 percent of respondents. This poll is bad news for Clinton, who has received better favorable and unfavorable ratings in nearly every poll over the last year.

Source:
VP PICK TAKES DIFFERENT TONE THAN TRUMP
Pence: “Serious Consequences” if Russia Hacked DNC
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The same day that Donald Trump encouraged Russia to hack the State Department and "find the 30,000 emails that are missing," the GOP nominee for vice president took a more serious approach. "If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences," Pence said in a statement. Trump's comments at a press conference this morning were rebuked by individuals across the political spectrum, while some on Trump's team, including prominent surrogate Newt Gingrich, have called his comments a "joke."

Source:
ECONOMY STABILIZING
Fed Leaves Rates Alone, but Signals Hikes to Come
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Federal Open Market Committee today voted to leave interest rates alone, but "upgraded its assessment of the economy’s recent performance and said near-term risks to the outlook have diminished, effectively leaving the door open to raise rates later this year, possibly as early as September."

Source:
CHARM OFFENSIVE
Pence Is Trump’s Man on Capitol Hill
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Spurred by VP pick Mike Pence, a former congressman with close ties to many lawmakers, the Trump campaign in recent weeks has stepped up its courtship of wary Capitol Hill Republicans. And the efforts appear to be bearing fruit." Central to the charm offensive: invitations to more than a dozen "Senate and House members into his family’s private box for some power-schmoozing with him and his kids" during the Republican National Convention.

Source:
PAUL RYAN: STOP IT
Trump Encourages More Spying by Russia
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump essentially encouraged more Russian espionage against Democrats in a press conference this morning. "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” That prompted Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan to say: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Source:
×