As of this morning’s stunning U.S. employment report from the Labor Department (for May), it looks like I’m wrong on the strength and speed of the recovery from the nation’s CCP Virus-induced recession. And I couldn’t be happier. (See here for my most recent forecast.)
What’s also critically important to note is that the announcement that the economy last month created a net new 2.51 million jobs over April’s levels seems to belie warnings that reopening the economy sooner rather than later would bring disastrous public health consequences – even with considerable social distancing, mask-wearing, and other protective measures. But the economic shutdowns began to be lifted in late April, and here it is early June, and no new spikes in virus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been recorded.
Further, strong reasons can be cited for believing that payrolls improvement will continue, at least until the arrival of a notable second wave, assuming one’s coming. For as usual, the May jobs report is based on the mid-month situation. One possible cause for concern, though: The response rates of the businesses and households surveyed remain lower than they were before the pandemic struck. So it’s possible that considerable economic distress is being missed.by the Labor Department’s canvassers.
All the same, let’s not pretend that the employment picture is anywhere close to good or even acceptable. The unemployment rate remains at an horrendous 13.3 percent, and non-farm payrolls (the Labor Department’s definition of the U.S. jobs universe) are still down by fully 17.67 million year-on-year.
Moreover, the new upswing is starting from a lower baseline than originally reported, for March net jobs losses are now pegged at 1.37 million, not the 701,000 first estimated, and April’s decrease has been revised from 20.50 million to 20.69 million.
Just for comparison’s sake, job losses during the Great Recession that followed the 2007-08 financial crisis totaled 8.69 million (from December, 2007 through February, 2010). And pre-recession employment levels weren’t regained until May, 2014. The very speed and strength of the latest jobs nosedive could mean that the employment recovery will be notably faster – as perhaps indicated by this morning’s data. But there’s also much more ground to be made up.
Interestingly, the CCP Virus impact on manufacturing remains smaller than on the rest of the economy. True, on a percentage basis, industry’s month-to-month jobs comeback (225,000 in absolute terms) was less on a percentage basis (1.96 percent) than that of the private sector overall (2.86 percent) – although slighly higher than that of the total economy (1.92 percent, a figure that of course includes hard-hit state and local governments).
But that’s partly because the manufacturing payrolls slump has been somewhat milder. The sector’s March employment losses have been upwardly revised from an originally reported 18,000 to 46,000. But last month’s initial April estimate of a 1.33 million jobs decline is now judged to be a slightly better 1.32 million.
Since February, therefore, whereas the total economy has shed 12.82 percent of its payrolls and the private sector 13.87 percent, manufacturing employment is off by 9.78 percent.
Let’s not be pollyannish, though. From its pre-Great Recession level to the trough, manufacturing lost 2.293 million jobs. And even at their peak during the pre-virus recovery (last December), only 61.71 percent had been regained.
That is, thanks to the CCP Virus, both the U.S. economy overall and its manufacturing sector remain awfully sick on the employment front.