U.S. Employment: The Fed And Stimulus Hasn't Helped

by: Daryl Montgomery

The August employment report released on September 7th was not particularly good by any measure. While the month to month changes seem lackluster, the longer term picture is truly dismal.

The headline numbers indicated that 96,000 jobs were created in August and that the unemployment rate declined from 8.3% to 8.1%. The previous two months were revised down by 41,000 however. Manufacturing employment was down 15,000 from July. "Food Services and Drinking Places" was the category with the biggest gains, adding 28,000 jobs last month.

Underneath the surface, the picture wasn't mediocre, it was negative. Looking at the total number of people listed as employed in Table A indicated that 119,000 fewer Americans had jobs in August than in July. This comes from the household survey and receives little attention from the mainstream media. This number was negative in the July release as well. Why isn't this reported? Well perhaps the media doesn't trust people to know whether or not they actually have a job.

What happened to employment between July and August though was minor compared to the weakening jobs picture over the last five years. It was in August 2007 that the Fed cut the discount rate, which was the beginning of its attempts to stimulate the economy. By the end of 2008, the Fed's Fund rate was at zero and a number of special programs had been implemented to handle the Credit Crisis. The first quantitative easing program had begun and a second round took place after that. In respect to jobs, the figures indicate that the Fed's efforts have been an utter failure.

In August 2007, 145,794,000 people were employed in the U.S. Last month, five years later, 142,101,000 people had jobs. So after all of the Fed's efforts and all the stimulus programs implemented by the Obama administration, there were 3,693,000 less jobs in the United States. In his Jackson Hole Speech in August, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke stated the Fed's efforts "increased private payroll employment by more than 2 million jobs." Oh really? Why don't those jobs show up in the government's own statistics Mr. Bernanke?

What caused the unemployment rate to be reported as lower in August than in July was a decline in the labor force. It shrank by 368,000. This is only a continuation of a multi-year trend though. In August 2007 there were 79,319,000 people not in the U.S. labor force. By last month, 88,921,000 didn't have jobs. That's an increase of 9,602,000 in five years. Yet, at the same time the employable population has grown substantially.

What about during just the Obama administration? His employment record is a big issue in the current presidential election after all. The labor force population has increased from 234,552,000 to 243,555,000, off by 9,003,000 so far during Obama's term. The current participation rate of 63.5% (low for the last few decades) would indicate that approximately 5,717,000 jobs should have been created to keep employment at a steady state. When Obama took office in January 2009, 142,099,000 Americans were employed. As of August 2012, 142,101,000 Americans were employed. There was a net increase of only 2,000 jobs. This represents a huge relative loss since the U.S. needed 5.7 million jobs just to maintain the same level of employment. More jobs would have been needed to make things better.

At his Jackson Hole speech Bernanke stated how concerned he was at the unemployment problem in the United States and that the Fed was willing to do more. Considering how little impact the Fed's high risk money-printing policies have had and how little seems to have resulted from the numerous stimulus programs that have been implemented, there is no reason to believe either will be improving the economy in the future. They are good for juicing stock prices however - at least in the short term. In the long run the gains will prove to be illusory.

Sources for the above from Table A of the August 2007, January 2009 and August 2012 Employment Situation report from the BLS. The URLs for the websites are:

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.