The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released the June Jobs report for 2019. The Nonfarm payroll (NFP) unemployment rate is steady at 3.7% and NFP US jobs increased by 224,000. The Economic Policy Institute explains this increase in jobs as representative of economic recovery from the 2009 succession, and other reports convey general relief after low job growth in May. 

For Minneapolis/St. Paul-Bloomington, BLS reports a 2.7% unemployment rate, up .5 percentage points from May, and down a point from the national average. Average NFP hourly wages show $26.63 for MPLS/St. Paul. 

What other numbers need to be in conversation with the BLS report? 

The BLS report shows a steady, if slow, recovery from the 2009 financial crisis. However, Workers are striking. Wages are stagnant. Housing is unaffordable. Public sector jobs are hard to come by. The gig-economy is consuming and precarious.

If the US economy is supposedly in a steady recovery state, why are people struggling so much with job security, happiness, and liveability? 

Let’s start with stagnant wages, wage inequity, and worker precarity. 

According to Economic Policy Initiative’s “Raising America’s Pay” and the Nominal Wage Tracker, wages for most US workers have been stagnant for decades even though wages for top executives and CEOs have increased significantly. Income growth is not shared equitably, and the wage gap is massive. 

The Roosevelt Institute project also reports on worker precarity. 

“workers today are much less likely to receive essential benefits, such as health care and retirement […and…] many employers have found ways around providing employees the labor protections that are codified in existing labor law, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, and protection against discrimination.” 

We don’t have access to universal healthcare in the US, and have traditionally often relied on healthcare access through employment. However these benefits are harder to find as the gig-economy increases and collective bargaining declines. 

Stagnant wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out of Reach, 2018 study shows us that, on a national level, minimum wage, 40-hour work week rates can’t afford even modest rental 2 bedrooms. The NLIHC study also shows us that 71% extremely low income households are spending half or over half of income on monthly rent. In the state of Minnesota, a worker must earn $18.82/hour with a 40 hour work week to rent a 2 bedroom home, or work 78 hours/week at the state minimum wage of $9.25.

In considering the health of the US economy, these reports argue there are broader issues including; access to living wage jobs, who is earning liveable wages, the availability of full-time vs. part-time work, access to secure benefits, and housing costs.

Breaking down the numbers: Where does the BLS report come from? 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects two monthly surveys: 1) the Current Population Survey, a 60,000 sample household survey that compiles basic demographic information, and labor force status (i.e. employment, unemployment, and conditions of); and 2) the Current Employment Statistics survey, a survey of around 142,000 businesses and government agencies that compiles employment, hours, and earnings of workers. BLS uses these surveys to report monthly US economic health numbers. 

What does Nonfarm Payroll (NFP) mean?

BLS surveys focus on NFP jobs and wages. NFP includes US private sector goods, service, and manufacturing workers (traditional labor workers) and wages. NFP does not include farm workers, private household workers, informal caregivers, nonprofit workers, independent contractors not employed through an LLC, part-time workers applying for full-time positions, and multiple part-time job holders.

Why are BLS Monthly Job Reports such a big deal? 

NFP has been utilized as an indicator of US markets and economic trends. BLS monthly reports on NFP numbers influence US markets, as well as the standing of the US market in the global market, or the strength of the US market.  BLS surveys also connect employment/ unemployment/wage trends with basic demographic data (M/F, Age, and limited Race/Ethnicity), which is important when considering inequities in the job market. 

It is important to note that BLS workforce numbers are preliminary, and can fluctuate +/- 120,000 as survey counts are finalized throughout the year. It is also important to note that the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate given by the BLS is significantly different than the unadjusted unemployment rate. The unadjusted unemployment rate for June is 7.5%, twice as many percentage points as the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 3.7%.

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