85,000? One Million More Have Joined the 'Long-Term Discouraged'

by: David Goldman

No, Virginia: There isn’t a Santa Claus, and even if there is, he didn’t bring an employment recovery for Christmas. But the household data in many ways are far more concerning than the establishment data, which show an 85,000 drop in December payrolls.

A far more disturbing number (in Table A-1 of yesterday’s BLS release) shows that “persons not in the labor force” increased by about 840,000 between November and December, from 83,022 to 83,865. That’s seasonally-adjusted; unadjusted, the number is closer to a million. Correspondingly, the total size of the civilian labor force fell from 153,720 to 153,059 between November and December.

What happened to the million Americans who went missing from the BLS definition of the labor force in the single month of December? They are the “long-term discouraged” or whatever, those whose prospects of finding a job are so poor that they have stopped looking.