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Jobs: Household Report Jumps but QCEW Shows Job Market is Not as Strong

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The analysis below covers the Employment picture released on the first Friday of every month. While most of the attention goes to the headline number, it can be helpful to look at the details, revisions, and other reports to get a better gauge of what is really going on.

Current Trends

The BLS reported a gain of 303k jobs. This exceeded expectations of about 200k. The Household Survey, which had been trailing the headline number, saw a blowout gain of 498k.

Figure: 1 Primary Report vs Household Survey – Monthly

Despite the massive Household blowout, for the year, the Household still trails the Headline report by the widest margin ever. The Household report is showing 34% of the Headline number for the year (283k vs 829k).

Figure: 2 Primary Report vs Household Survey – Annual

The BLS also publishes the data behind their Birth/Death assumptions (formation of new business). In March, the BLS actually assumed a job loss in their birth/death assumptions.

Figure: 3 Primary Unadjusted Report With Birth Death Assumptions – Monthly

There is another report published by the BLS called the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QECW). According to the BLS, this is a far more accurate and rigorous report covering 95% of jobs available at a highly detailed level. Due to the rigor, the report is released quarterly on a 7-month lag. The latest report was published at the end of February to show Q3 2023.

Similar to the Household Report, the QECW has been over the headline number in recent periods but still trails on a yearly basis. Below are the monthly numbers.

Figure: 4 Primary Report vs QCEW – Yearly

On an annual basis, you can see that the QCEW trails the Headline number representing 92% and 76% for 2023 and 2024.

Figure: 5 Primary Report vs QCEW – Yearly

Digging Into the Report

The 303k jobs surprised to the upside with the unemployment rate dropping slightly from the near-term high last month.

Figure: 6 Change by sector

The number of multiple job holders dropped again this month.

Figure: 7 Multiple Full-Time Employees

Jobs by Category

Several categories saw some large gains, with only three categories below the 12-month trend (Education, Prof business, and Manufacturing).

Figure: 8 Current vs TTM

The table below shows a detailed breakdown of the numbers.

Figure: 9 Labor Market Detail

Revisions

Over the last three months, the data has been revised down by an average of 9.3k per month and 14.2k over 12 months.

Figure: 10 Revisions

Historical Perspective

The chart below shows data going back to 1955.

Figure: 11 Historical Labor Market

The labor force participation rate is still well below the highs before the Global Financial Crisis. This month it climbed to 62.7%.

Figure: 12 Labor Market Distribution

Data Source: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PAYEMS and also series CIVPART

Data Updated: Monthly on first Friday of the month

Last Updated: Mar 2024

Interactive charts and graphs can always be found on the Exploring Finance dashboard: https://exploringfinance.shinyapps.io/USDebt/

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