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U.S. Unemployment Is Less Healthy Than The Headline Numbers

Non-farm payroll in April rose 165,000 with strong upward revisions for March and February. The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.5% from 7.6%. The stock market liked the figures. However, details on the employment numbers do not look as robust as headlined.

The work week actually declined by 0.2 hours. U-6, a broader measure that includes under-employment and those who are too discouraged to look for work, ticked up to 13.9% from 13.8%, the first increase since July 2012. At the same time, average weekly earnings declined 0.4%.

The ranks of the self-employed rose by 306,000. A figure larger than the whole of increase in employment in April. This brings up a question. Are there more self-employed entrepreneurs and consultants working a shorter week now and earning less than when the same individuals were wage earners working for employers?

Unemployment and under-employment are likely worse than the headlines. There may not be a lot of incremental consumer spending power on the sidelines.