Crunching the Unemployment Numbers

Disposable income may never be what it was again.

The new unemployment numbers were released Friday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and on the surface the rate is unchanged at 9.5 percent. However, there’s a lot that can be discerned about what’s really going on by looking just below the surface.

Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000 jobs this past month. That means the figure doesn’t include consultants or freelance people, like myself, who aren’t part of a regular payroll, as well as people working on a farm of any kind. However, private sector payroll employment jumped up, which is great news, by 71,000 jobs.

The difference between those two figures is all of the federally employed census workers whose job expired. They were artificially raising the employment rate through the spring and summer, which we knew was going to happen and we knew that it would come to an end.

So, the rate of unemployment by the federal government for long-term hires stayed the same. However, the private sector of small to mid-size businesses and corporations hired some new people. Since that’s the place most of us will find a new job that’s great news. The rock is rolling in the right direction.

The numbers for people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more and are still searching, long-term unemployed, remain unchanged as well as those who involuntarily switched from full time to part time employment. Those who have been out of work the longest are still not getting hired, which means it’s probably time to get help with the resume, the how-to’s of a job interview and to open up the spectrum of jobs a bit wider.

At some point we have to face the possibility that it’s a bad economy but we may be playing a part in it too. We can ask for some help and guidance and then be willing to just do it without all of the blather about why we can’t change.

There is also some good news buried in that 9.5 percent unemployment rate. Manufacturing added 36,000 jobs mostly in the car industry, which is also good news for the rest of us because manufacturing jobs tend to have a nice roll-out affect for the rest of us.

People buy news cars, which spurs the industry to hire people to build something who then have money to spend at other businesses who then have to order more stuff for their shelves who then turn back to manufacturing.

The hardest part of recovering from a recession is getting that cycle to just start. The fact that it’s starting mostly in one of the hardest-hit areas, automotive, is even further reason to believe that the deepest parts of the recession are over. That doesn’t mean the climb out isn’t going to take awhile.

This is a lot like eating greasy, sugar-filled food till you’re a hundred pounds overweight and then devoting another year or more of hard work to lose the extra poundage. The slide into obesity probably took longer but we didn’t have to take contrary actions that required work so we never noticed the time slipping away from us. Same deal here.

Other sectors showing signs of recovery are healthcare, which added 27,000 jobs and warehousing and transportation, which added 56,000 new employees since February.

The sector that is still lagging behind is professional and business services, which makes sense because the more highly skilled people aren’t as needed until there’s more money to spend. As Americans cut back further and further just trying to stay afloat they whittled away till there was nothing left but the basics and they’ve been slow to start spending much since. Frankly, considering what our baseline was for percentage of income devoted to spending that’s probably a good thing.

Here’s where part of the hard work is going to have to happen so we can all get back to work. Things aren’t going to return to where they were in December of 2007 regardless of who we elect because we were out of control and operating on a system of mortgage and financial lies, both on the big level of Wall Street and the personal level of our own household budgets.

Therefore, we’re going to have to accept that our disposable income, the splurge and acquire portion, may always be smaller. We may actually have to learn how to get our happiness fix from the relationships around us because they’re free and within our budget.