The Jobs Recovery, Compared to the “Good Times” Trend

February confirms: V-shaped jobs recovery petered out in October about two-thirds into it.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

In February, “households” reported that 150.2 million people were working – including gig workers – bringing the number of working people back to a level first seen in December 2015  (red line in the chart below), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report this morning. This was up by 208,000 from January. Over the four months since October, households reported an increase of 570,000 jobs.

The BLS basis its jobs data on two separate surveys: of households and of “establishments” – companies, non-profits, and government entities, not including all self-employed people. These establishments had 143.05 million employees (green line) in February, up by 379,000 employees from January. Over the four months since October, formal employment at establishments has risen by 503,000 jobs.

Not catching up with the Trend during the “Good Times.”

The increase in the number of people with jobs (red line) since October is only slightly higher than the increase over the same period a year earlier: In October, the number of people with jobs as reported by households was down by 8.69 million people year-over-year; in February, it was still down by 8.49 million people.

If the number of people with jobs had remained on the same trend as during the Good Times since 2015, there would now be around 161.2 million people with jobs (top red trendline in chart above). But the difference between the Good Times trend and the last four months (lower red trend line) has widened a tad – when it should have continued to shrink.

9.5 million formal jobs still missing.

In February, compared to February last year, establishments were still down by 9.47 million jobs. This year-over-year difference has improved little since September, when establishments were down by 9.50 million jobs.

Households reported a similar trend: In February, the number of people with jobs was down by 8.49 million compared to February last year, slightly better than the 8.69 million year-over-year drop reported in October.

The labor force, oh dearie.

The number of people deemed by the household surveys to be in the “labor force” – either working or not working but actively looking for a job, depending on how people answer specific questions on the survey – ticked up a smidgen in February from January but has gone nowhere since July:

The employment-population ratio.

The employment-population ratio, which is the broadest measure of employment and covers the working-age population (16 years or older), ticked up to 57.6%. It has gained a minuscule 0.2 percentage points since October (57.4%):

Long-term, the Employment Population Ratio is one of the most dismal two-decade trends out there. The ratio drops during each recession – that much is normal – but until 2000, the ratio more than recovered each time. In the three recessions since 2000, it never fully recovered before the next recession hit, a testimony to companies trying to bring their costs down by sending work overseas or automating it away:

To summarize, the February jobs situation has remained on trend since October with uneven improvements that are just a tad above or below the improvements from the same period a year earlier, as the initial V-shaped jobs recovery petered out in October about two-thirds into it.

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  94 comments for “The Jobs Recovery, Compared to the “Good Times” Trend

  1. nodecentrepublicansleft says:

    I started working 36 yrs ago and the min wage then was $3.35/hour.

    It’s now at $7.25/hr.

    So the greatest country in the world with all it’s wealth and nobility, can only cough up $3.90 in raises over three and half decades for it’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

    That’s an annual raise of one dime. Seriously? Has the cost of housing, food, education, healthcare, transportation, etc. only gone up in cost ten cents a year? This, along with our “health care” system remains in international disgrace.

    RE: Health care….is it immoral to make $ off of Grandma’s brain cancer?

    • Michael Gorback says:

      Who’s making the money and what is your definition of immoral?

      Where’s the growth in healthcare costs? Read it and weep. Just like colleges.

      • Mira says:

        Regarding U’r link .. how can it be that admin staff are being hired & not the new medico’s just out of med school ??
        Our hospitals are wired up to technology .. it’s all on the phone & online .. why do we need more admin staff ??
        We do not .. so what is going on ??
        Maybe its not true.
        We have 3-4 times the medical professionals we need in Australia .. while many nations in the world & Australia’s rural areas have nothing.
        Cardiologist Dr. Joseph at Pacemaker Clinic Footscray hospital has a young & qualified Cardiologist working the mouse for him because he is computer illiterate .. he is also not practicing the latest medical procedures because he has not learned how.
        Dr. Joseph is redundant .. not fit for the purpose & yet he & others just like him run the hospitals & dictate treatments ..
        What the hell is going on .. young & highly skilled Dr,’s at their peak are not allowed to practice while the old ones botch their way from one lucrative salary to the next.

    • timbers says:

      Which drives home my point: the $15/hr thingy by 2025 is a planned wage decrease.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        It’s an entry-level job decrease, hitting young people the hardest.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Many job tiers above minimum wage (MW) are set by minimum wage. If MW is $7.50, nearby factories might have to pay 15. If factories pay 15, more skilled and dangerous jobs might have to pay 25 and so on.

          MW should have been raised many times slowly over the decades and now they have to change it quicker, which causes more problems or there could be even bigger problems (if MW isn’t raised poverty could skyrocket). They still do have to raise MW to 15 over several years though, to reduce problems.

    • Frederick says:

      I started working 51 years ago and my minimum was 2.90 an hour and with tips I was making around 4 an hour or the equivalent of 16 gallons of regular leaded gas Not bad for a 16 year old high school kid

      • EdYooper says:

        Wow. 16 gallons of gas would be about $38 in today’s dollars.

        (Yes, gas was cheaper in 1970 than today and the minimum wage was higher too!)

        • Khowdung Flunghi says:

          “…16 gallons of gas would be about $38 in today’s dollars.”

          …or $2.10 using silver coins.

          1932-1964 Washington Quarter

          Current value of silver content: $4.5682

      • Harrold says:

        Waiters receive $2.13/hr in Texas.

      • Brant Lee says:

        In the 60s I walked daily over a mile to a local grocery store to stock the cooler for a quarter. On weekends I walked over a ten-mile route to sort pop bottles at several supermarkets (including Piggly Wiggly, LOL) for about $2 total.

        Little did I know at the time I could have paid for my retirement making that very amount of money by buying some early Marvel comics and keeping them in pristine condition. I plainly remember Spider-Man #1 (and such) on the racks.

    • Nacho Libre says:

      Two out of three employees will be happy with minimum wage increase.

      One that’s unhappy is the one who lost the job.

      ‘The greatest country in the world with all it’s wealth and nobility’ doesn’t even pay minimum living wage as social security benefits. May be it should fix that first before mandating private individuals to pay more.

      • BrianC - PDX says:

        You, sir, are assuming facts not in evidence.

        Personally I would like to see (just to make my priors plain):
        – Higher minimum wage
        – Higher progressive tax rates on high earners (Including *me*)
        – National healthcare
        – A sane national industrial policy. (Asset stripping the entire country and moving *everything* offshore because “free trade” doesn’t count.)

        • Nacho Libre says:

          Not assuming. There are multiple counter examples. Here is one done by University of Washington:
          TLDR: increased hourly wages did not offset reduced hours/jobs.

          By the way if the minimum wages magically made poverty disappear, that formula can be applied liberally in all third world countries – may be we should share this one secret trick with those countries.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Nacho Libre,

          Fraser Institute is a conservative/libertarian publication with an anti-minimum wage bias from getgo. It’s all for wage repression. Worthless. Many states and cities have higher minimum wages and growing job markets. The data is out there, no reason to make up stuff.

          That piece is from five years ago! You had to dig pretty deep to find this nonsense.

        • Nacho Libre says:


          I don’t have to dig too much, evidence is compelling. I pasted one that showed up at the top.

          If it pleases the crowd, here is the recent one from CBO:

          “Employment would be reduced by 1.4 million workers, or 0.9 percent, according to CBO’s average estimate; and
          The number of people in poverty would be reduced by 0.9 million.”

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Nacho Libre,

          This is just BS. The CBO estimate of what might happen in the future if the US raised the minimum wage has already been debunked.

          Look at reality and look at the states and municipalities that have higher minimum wages. They had red-hot economies with ultra-low unemployment rates before the Pandemic.

          You can get this unemployment data by state and metro/county/city from the state employment agencies.

          For example, per California EDD, in San Francisco in 2019, where the minimum wage was over $15 per hour, the unemployment rate in 2019 ranged from 1.9% to 2.4%, depending on the month.

          So if you really want to know how higher minimum wages worked in terms of the unemployment rate, do some homework. Look at reality. Higher minimum wages have been around for years. The data is out there – if you want to see it.

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        Nacho Libre,

        Social security is designed to pay you roughly 40% of what you used to make. If your wages rise, your total money given and received from social security would also rise.

        Right now, the issue with social security being so low is that, most current retirees also receive pensions. They are of course other welfare programs in case that 40% isn’t enough. Long term, pensions are disappearing, so in the future, social security needs to be raised.

      • wkevinw says:

        The economics community has been corrupted in the past 20 years.

        Each side uses “economic studies/quantitation” to grind a political ax.

        Every market, such as the job market, is subject to the shape and location of demand curves, where supply and demand are mediated by price.

        If you do a study in an area where the minimum wage is relatively high, it’s easy to show that increasing minimum wage will indeed lead to unemployment for obvious reasons.

        If you do the same study in an area where the minimum wage is relatively low, it’s easy to show that increasing minimum wage will not impact unemployment much. (and lower income people will have more spending money – which can help the local economy).

        That’s what the truth is, economists know it and are unethical when they do these studies to give confirmation bias to their political side.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      C’mon youngsters,,, I started working in 1951, selling newspapers on a street corner for 5 cents, of which I got 2 cents, and if I sold all 25, I felt like a rich kid.
      This was after Dad told me I could have a new football if I earned the money, thinking, no doubt, he was going to get me to work more (beyond the usual chores for which I got an ”allowance” of 10 cents per week, ) and was not happy when I started making ”good money” instead, and stopped the dime a week, LOL.
      After that came a delivery route as soon as I turned 11, the minimum age, and then I found I could tow my mower behind the same bike, and was able to convince folks to pay me, piece work, a lot more,,, and then piece work at $1 per page of typing with zero errors or corrections, and that netted about 5-6 dollars per hour…
      Much later, as a licensed general contractor/carpenter, I have made up to $500 per hour, piece work, doing short term emergency repairs, while usually charging $50-100/hour as carpenter, etc., etc.
      Youngsters I have talked today making a lot more than the latter, hourly by working their butts off as skilled manual labor, as they should.
      Not sure about union folks in SF bay area, but hear it’s $170 for first 1/2 hour for a non union plumber to even show up these days, and ”average” handyman around $100 per hour. And some folks still calling me 25 years later,,, as if…
      Wage slaves may not be doing so well, per article, etc.,, but, folks who are skilled and work hard are doing very well here in tpa bay area too, with free lance ”handymen” with good reputations getting $50+/hour, or $300+ per day.
      Others recently talked to, including lawn maintenance, tree removal workers, etc., etc., are at similar rates+ or -.
      I doubt any of these folks are even answering guv mint queries, and very likely not telling the truth, if they must respond, etc.
      And, yes, I totally agree with timbers, it and the immigration scam are just another crapola/scamola from the GUV MINT folks obeying their masters/owners.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Damn VVN, you must be older than me as I started hauling around newspapers in 1957! Also shoveled snow and picked apples, among doing other things.

        On another note, my step-daughter-in-law (still family) who lost her accounting job at an oil & gas firm here in Houston last April, is still unemployed. But she made $120 K per year then, and now at 55 years old, is really not attractive, age or salary wise, to land a similar job (that’s my opinion). There’s been no offers either.

        This sucks for her as she has a house payment (well, I guess still in “forbearance”) and a unemployed son at home (that’s her fault). Anyway, she turned in her leased car in November and is driving a “more affordable” older VW Jetta.

        Up to know she hasn’t asked us for any help, but that may be around the next bend in the road.

      • Robert says:

        “lawn maintenance, tree removal workers, etc., etc., are at similar rates+ or -.”

        You must live in a very wealthy area. The poor mow their own lawns and chop down their own trees. I can tell you this from personal experience.

        But you’re correct about cash laborers not responding to government surveys. We have 11 million cash laborers in this country (soon to be citizens) who do not respond to government surveys.

    • Poor like you says:

      I promise you that due to the the inflation of everything, the minimum wage is in reality substantially lower now than it was 36 years ago.

    • wkevinw says:

      Minimum wage now is about 25% lower than 40 years ago in real terms. It is at the low end of “average” since 1950. A bump would be good, but it is not completely “out of control”.

      If you want enough $ and innovation to be able to treat Grandma’s brain cancer, somebody needs to make (a lot of) $ to invent that.

      That does not excuse the price gouging that does occur in the health care/insurance industry. That gouging is facilitated by the very government that we all wish would put in sensible regulation.

      There are several folks in congress with a background in the health care/insurance industry. I hear precious few thoughtful proposals about how to improve this.

    • Cas127 says:

      If you want to understand why incomes have stagnated…look at the last chart in Wolf’s post (employment to Population, 16+).

      Even pre Covid, after almost a decade of ZIRP (allegedly intended to lower invt costs and therefore create jobs) the ratio was the same as the late 80’s…*30 years* earlier.

      Without new jobs (or lower labor supply…ahem, 15 million plus illegals) wages will *never* go up again.

      Mandating a wage level won’t change that…if anything it will destroy some additional jobs so that the remaining employees get paid more.

      • EdYooper says:

        Productivity gains stopped being translated close to 1:1 with wage gains in the 1980’s.

        Cas127, someone got that money.

        • EdYooper says:

          I mean to say the percentage of productivity gains that accrued to workers has declined markedly.

      • Sea Creature says:

        Raising minimum wage will do nothing as long as the border is not controlled.

        Here in California pretty much any entry level non customer facing (and quite a few mid level) job is choc-full of illegals (think cooks, construction workers, laborers..etc), such that the market clearing wage rate found out there is now *below* the legal minimum wage.

        Raising the minimum wage will pretty much do nothing for low wage Americans except make them unemployed and replaced by illegals until illegal immigration is firmly dealt with first (i.e. stopped).

      • Old school says:

        It’s a little surprising but on net mid and large corporations are not job creators. They basically have lot of capital and fund projects that get more revenue per person. It can be $1 or $2 million of revenue per person.

        Jobs are created by small business. I think the Obama administration blew it here as they were putting in too many regulations and business creation lagged. When you have a good business climate going good workers are hard to find and pay goes up. Some people are not worth $1 an hour to a business as they can not generate any addition revenue for the company. That is a problem, but it’s not a small business

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Wolf (and Cas127), recommend going a step further and simply graph employment divided by total population including armed forces and all.

        The workers produce for the entire nation, but the entire nation ain’t working. The 16-and-over employment ratio is skewed lower recently by burgeoning retiree population. But the kids have to be fed and clothed too, and those armed forces cost money also.

        Now consider the 1% taking far more than their fair share. Note that workers’ wages as a share of GDP are at historic lows. And remember that even among workers, there are nonproductive cronyist grifters sponging off the genuine producers.

        Is it any wonder that the actual productive workers’ output is spread so thinly among what’s left of the middle class?

        It’s too bad Congress and the new administration cannot or will not do anything about any of this!

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          P.S. In the Fed’s FRED graph, the graph is “PAYEMS” / “POP”.

        • Khowdung Flunghi says:

          “…and those armed forces cost money also.”

          The total “cost” to support the US MIC is beyond comprehension. I spent 30+ years working for defense contractors and there is an enormous hidden drain on society from opportunity costs. I worked with many, many people who were absolutely brilliant. They were all very well-compensated – far more than they could earn in private industry. Doing what? Building stuff to kill people or hoping that it never got used. The waste, fraud and abuse along the way was unimaginable. The “opportunity cost” – had those brilliant engineers been working on stuff that was somehow productive – was frankly tragic. Misallocation of resources – just sad.

    • Malthus says:

      Minimum wage laws are just another price control and like any price control will create a shortage of jobs for the most vulnerable, that we should be trying to help.
      Otherwise let’s go for it and have minimum wage of 100 per hour.

    • K says:

      Dear nodecentrepublicanleft and timbers, you are both absolutely right. If the alternate inflation charts at shadowstats are correct, and I believe them a lot more than I believe the formal CPI computations (due to the massive conflict of interest of the designers of the CPO), then wages have been and continue decreasing. The $15 per hour raise, which will not go into effect apparently due to a ludicrous respect for the filibuster, which is not even a constitutional requirement, would only decrease the loss of purchasing power of lower income Americans as inflation continues to surge. See “If You Want To Know The Real Rate Of Inflation, Don’t Bother With The CPI” in the excellent Forbes Magazine. See “Shortcomings of the Consumer Price Index as a Measure of the Cost of Living” in lumenlearning. See “The Major Problem With CPI And How It Hurts The Economy” in Forbes Magazine.

      Inflation will surge. I do wonder what the banksters’ “Federal” Reserve cartel, which is not publicly owned despite its misleading name, is doing secretly for its banksters. In the last catastrophe caused by the banksters, it secretly gave them over a trillion dollars by the most conservative of computations. See “Report: Fed Committed $7.77 Trillion To Rescue Banks” in npr. See “The Fed’s ‘Secret’ $1.2 Trillion Bailout of Wall Street” in The Atlantic. See “$29,000,000,000,000: A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Bailout by Funding Facilityand Recipient” the levyinstitute. See “Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress” in the billionaire-owned Bloomberg, which I would suspect might understate the amount of the bailouts.

      • K says:

        I was interrupted by a tyke, so forgot to add: a trillion here and a trillion there paid by the “Federal” Reserve to its banksters adds up to real money. Thus, will those probably trillions printed in secret, “Fed” bailouts cause increased inflation? More TRILLIONS of US legal tender will be secretly given/taken to benefit the banksters; count on it.

        Remember that huge numbers of the banks’ assets securitized by mortgages are now kaput in many many areas, both commercial loans and residential loans. The variants may make the disaster even longer lasting and worse. The economic disaster has resulted in “forbearances” that are just efforts at concealing/DELAYING mass defaults.

        The banks’ always had only tiny net capital after subtracting their massive liabilities from their assets and might even have been legally insolvent already in 2019, so the pandemic might have actually come to their rescue to give them an excuse to get bailouts. See “Fed’s Mortgage-Buying Spree at $1 Trillion With No End in Sight” in Bloomberg. See “The Fed Now Owns Over $2 Trillion in Mortgages, What Else?” in The Street’s mishtalk, which $2 TRILLION in mortgages did not just coincidentally jump into the basket of assets of the “Fed” while it was fishing.

        What amazes me is the effort to try to anticipatorily blame the $1.9 trillion bailout proposed to help small businesses and ordinary Americans for the coming inflation after the banksters and ultra-rich have been (and I am sure still keep) receiving dozens of trillions from their “Fed” for decades.

        • Yort says:

          The $1,900,000,000,000 ($1.9E12) stimulus bill just passed the Senate. $1.9 Trillion is enough to give each and every one of the 8.5 million unemployed citizens $223,529.41 EACH…

          To say inflation is not going to increase over the next few months to few years would be naive at best. When a recession of any type hurts the economy and thus economic potential, and companies lower output, there is a natural process of slowly getting the economy back to prior capacity. Injecting $5 trillion of digital nitrous oxide stimulus over 12 short months into and economy in recession is like boosting your Ford Focus 2.3L turbo engine with nitrous oxide…fun while it lasts, but usually not good for the engine/economy longer term. But boy oh boy is it a glorious ending when it does go boom! Having pushed an engine tie rod through an engine block myself during catastrophic engine failure, it is total chaos and dangerous (firewall is thin metal), especially when the red hot tie rod caught the dry grass median on fire during my youthful total ignorance years…live and learn, right J-Pow???

          Enjoy the nitrous while it lasts…we will all be needing some laughing gas once the unintended consequences catch up to the Fed monetary/QE and govt fiscal/stimmi (M)agic (M)oney (T)rain…

    • MCH says:

      One would imagine that 36 years in, you’re no longer making minimum wage. Right?

      The whole point of minimum wage is entry level position where skills required to do the job is minimum. If 36 years in, you were still stuck at minimum wage, the problem isn’t the mandated minimum wage.

      Let’s do a bit of math here. $3.35/hr * 40 hr = $134/week. Then four weeks makes that $536. Would that have been enough to survive on back then in 1985? Depending on where you lived, it would’ve been enough to cover the rent back then, but one would still be living paycheck to paycheck. Run that together with inflation, and the decreasing purchase power of the dollar, the problem becomes a little more obvious, although that’s still more of a flesh wound than anything serious.

      The problem here is not so much minimum wage, that’s kind of like providing a band aid to a gunshot victim. The problem in reality is how do people move on past minimum wage over reasonable period of time. Or put it another way, the ability to provide opportunity through education. If you look at it from that level, the problem becomes slightly different. But fortunately, we need to keep the teachers safe and the schools closed, cause Fauci said so…. *wink wink*

      But, I do agree, from a problem solving perspective, it’s simpler to just increase the minimum wage, or better yet, just keep the current stimulus going forever, and Wolf will keep having debt out the wazoo content indefinitely.

    • Nick says:

      I worked for 1.75 an hour in high school, (1970).
      That bought five gallons of gas, had I the $2200 to buy a V.W. Candy bars cost either 5 or ten cents.
      A loaf of really elegant Pepperidge Farm bread, with raisons and walnuts in it cost .90 cents.

    • Mira says:

      It’s a trick a minute .. hey !!

      More for Less.
      Healthcare is a most lucrative business ..
      So why doesn’t it work ??
      It works very well indeed for some .. rigged is a good word.
      Qualified healthcare workers do not work .. they have set up a routine system of procrastination that keeps U on a drip feed of little or no treatment .. or ineffective Mickey Mouse pharmaceutical treatments .. while attending endless paid appointments.
      Make no mistake .. someone is making big money at the expense of the healthcare system.

  2. Income is ripping however. Puts some added punch in the min wage debate. Have long noted that those with government jobs, or working in private business with government contracts are far ahead of the rest. May be why so many more hate government, familiarity breeds contempt.

    • Frederick says:

      When I was young government jobs were for losers and lazy people without any ambition or drive Just put in your 8 hours, hiding as much as possible and retire after 20 years of hiding

      • Beardawg says:


        True – I reluctantly worked a gubment job for 10 years, hoping this stereotype would be proven untrue. The stereotype was, unfortunately, proven to be true. I managed to get myself effectively fired (which is really hard to do with a gubment job). It stemmed from, you guessed it, finding more efficient ways to run things which stepped on the toes of people who did not want to change and were “too close to retirement” to take on new challenges.

        Soooo….I took a legitimate FMLA leave (my Dad was dying and needed personal assistance), then came back after the FMLA and quit.

    • Poor like you says:

      How do you mean, income is ripping?

      • PI up 10% in Jan. Up 14% since Covid lows.

        • Poor like you says:

          With the labor force so brutalized, and all the other ominous statistics about our economy, I have to wonder what a rise in incomes really means. I’m guessing it’s part of that “K shaped” recovery.

    • timbers says:

      “those with government jobs, or working in private business with government contracts are far ahead of the rest.” Indeed, those paid mercenaries on the CIA payroll located in (fill in the blank) nation we’re toppling at any given moment are so rolling in doe, no minimum wage for them, so much so the Pentagon admits it can’t account for how many trillions? Not to mention the long known CIA heroin trafficking in ME.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Minimum wages have gone up in a lot of states and municipalities on January 1 (including California).

  3. LifeSupportSystem4aVote says:

    The top 3 charts all appear to be reverse orientation square root symbols. Seems fitting somehow, perhaps prophetic.

  4. B.A.C.A.H. says:


    I see the inflation at the gas pump, but not in my grocery basket. This is congruent with Wolf’s post here about the jobs situation.

    I think the increase in gas prices may not be “inflationary” at all: the extra spending for gasoline will be shifted from other costs. In the summer of 2008, the extra spending for gasoline during $100+ per barrel of crude oil was shifted from mortgage payments to the gas pumps so folks could still drive to work. (Priorities, you know).

    Based on my weekly grocery basket combined from Trader Joe, Whole Foods, Food Maxx and Lunardi’s that was benchmarked in Q4 2017 and updated weekly since then, the annualized inflation rate of my basket is 0.67 % (ie, 1.0067 of nominal prices). It’s a mean of prices per item, with careful attention to the hedonics of sizes (like, the 13 oz coffee bag at TJ). 465 line items from 12 different local retailers in San Jose. (other 8 retailers only occasional, the four named nearly each week).

  5. Michael Gorback says:

    What “Good Times” trend? Employment-Population peaked 20 years ago.

    • BuySome says:

      How many were working started to become less important around 1970. How many were buying gradually replaced it. By the late ’70’s, it was the drive from Star Wars licensing that first pushed a giant co-ordinated wad of pablum down into the throat of the consumption economy. Soon, pop cultures became the driving force and sprung up in every sector and each industry. It had to be trendy or it was dead. Did not matter where it was made or by whom, as long as it was “in”. Credit extensions have held it up. Computers have taken the human error and accelerated it to the speed of light. But is it approaching an end? Will we ask who makes it or how good is it’s quality for the money transferred? I have big doubts that they can even unwind the mess. The employment gap might grow as long as the space is compensated for by keeping up the spending artificially, but will numerical facts boomerang. That old hound Ceteris Paribus would bite everyone in the butt, but the Fed seems to have taken her out into the courtyard and put a muster ball in her brain. They’ll weight the scales in any way they can to avoid any epiphany.

      • lenert says:

        Women entered the workforce in the ’70s and are proportionally out of it right now until schools and daycare can return to capacity.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Good Times in the current economic cycle.

  6. Nacho Libre says:

    A whole lot of those jobs are killed permanently. Small businesses can’t survive without cash flow for more than a few months. Months of lockdowns have killed them.

    Given half the employment of US is in small businesses, picture will not be the same.

    • You might expect corporate America to replace those businesses with franchises. I expect a major brewery to establish a chain of microbrew pubs. The restaurant industry was overbuilt. Walmart is already doing things like inhouse nail salons, eye glasses. Business owners trade headaches for a good salary. Low end workers are where they always were but with a decent min wage. Then we create new green energy jobs. They might actually be able to shrink the size of government and reduce deficits. They have invested a lot in corporate solutions, now it’s time to ask the question.

  7. Brant Lee says:

    At least it would a bit reassuring if 10% of U.S. labor had been replaced by a robot but corporations are also taking that manufacturing overseas. Now larger parts of the service sector labor during covid are finding new ways to be outsourced. It’s the new American innovation model.

    10% loss in U.S. labor per year is probably the new norm.

  8. Bobber says:

    I’ll be heading back to work after buying a load of Tesla at $880.


  9. Paulo says:

    Decent union wages set the floor for hourly pay and working conditions, sometimes the ceiling, but always sets the standard. When jobs are shitty newer workers simply build up their experience and connections and move on to a decent one. Thanks to the targeted attack on unions in the US for the last 40 years, wages have been stagnant and declining. Work is mostly part time.

    For a few years I worked for a big forestry company. I would run in to the odd anti union guy who would say, “We used to need them but not anymore”. My reply, “The company would pay you 2 bucks an hour if they could get away with it.” Less than 100 years ago if a logger was killed on the job they put him behind a stump and brought him down on the last load of the day. Last week a contract faller was killed here (BC…Vancouver Island) and they shut the entire operation down (hundreds of employees) out of respect, and to ensure there was in effect safe work practices throughout. In the 70s I used to fly for forestry companies. One day I had to fly into camp and pick up a guy with a crushed pelvis. Upon arrival they didn’t even have a stretcher let alone a first aid attendant. (Non union camp). No way to get the man off the hill. A tree was on him. He had to be bucked out. They finally had to get the military in to sling him out on a Vertol. The owner had two companies, one union and one non union. Guess which one this was?

    My friend has a son in law who lives in Wisconsin, a right to work state. He works with Covid patients. If he refuses to work for safety concerns he gets fired. If he gets Covid he goes into quarantine without pay. This is in 2021.

    No wonder people drop out of the labour force. Oh yeah, he has a post secondary degree…whoopee.

    And greenies (inexperienced) do unpaid internships? What a joke.

    And they ship manufacturing jobs overseas. China uses slave labour camp workers and North Americans buy their products.

    From the NY Times: The workers who assemble Apple iPhones make a starting wage of $3.15 per hour in the People’s Republic of China, according to The New York Times. …..That $3.15 per hour is less than half the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour…..and In January 1980, the year we extended most-favored-nation status to the People’s Republic of China, there were 19,282,000 Americans employed in manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This January, there were only 12,826,000. As our population and economy grew, we lost 6,456,000 manufacturing jobs.

    It’s more than a mess, it’s a disaster. Young people will need some solid family support going forward. They’ll also need some anger and gumption to turn this mess around.

    • roddy6667 says:

      That $3.15 an hour has 5X the buying power in China, so it is actually 2 1/2 times as much as the US minimum wage.

      • Brant Lee says:

        You better dig a little deeper into that theory. Food is not five times cheaper in China, nothing near. There is also horrendous slave labor there. Which news outlet do you work for?

    • cb says:

      @ Paulo –

      I’m wondering if the issue is union versus non-union

      or, if the root issue

      is owner vs non-owner

    • lenert says:

      Nowadays Amazon sets the floor wherever they open a warehouse.

  10. WSKJ says:

    I just read Paulo, above, and I’m aware of pros and cons re unions. No doubt they came into existence because of abuses. Some further thoughts:

    March 5, 2021

    These are a couple of recent thoughts I’ve had re the ongoing impoverishment of the American workingman:

    Imagine that early on in the empire-building days of Amazon, Bezos had said:

    let’s have a new better workers’ union; let’s include the best features of Japan’s “enterprise unions”, which were portrayed in the American media as having open and efficient lines of communication between management and workers. Let’s consider profit-sharing. (Wait a minute, first we have to plan to make a profit; and then, we can share it.)…………..

    You get the idea: Amazon might never have suffered the embarrassment of several years ago when the poverty-level wages of its warehouse workers came to light.

    Amazon, allegedly, is currently fighting against unionization at its warehouses. Coulda been different, guys.

    Has it ever been different in the executive versus worker arena ?

    Well, the story is that Henry Ford decided to manufacture a car that the American working family could afford. Then he had an even better idea: pay his employees well enough that they could afford to buy the cars they were producing…….a Big Idea

    There are still a few industries in the U.S. that pay their employees well enough to put food on the table and enjoy the good life. It’s hard to see anything that government has done, in recent decades, that has increased the prosperity of the working classes. I doubt that the U.S. Congress is capable of writing a minimum-wage law that would actually work to raise average Americans’ wages . Kids wanting to babysit or mow lawns ? Reagan got them paying taxes; why not give them the minimum wage ? Kids doing household chores ?: they should probably get a nominal income, and start paying into FICA as an addendum to their parents’ tax forms. Now we’re cooking……………..

    Thx, Wolf.

  11. Stillastudent says:

    Didn’t Paul Krugman get a Nobel Prize for advocating shipping “menial jobs” offshore as part of the “competitive advantage” theory of international trade. America was going to go on with the growth of highly skilled jobs but forgot that, without money, most kids don’t get an education.

    • polecat says:

      So why has Paul not been ‘shanghaied’ to the eastern hemisphere somewhere, doing menial prognostication??

      Inquiring minds and all that …

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        Duh, it’s obvious why. Because mental prognostication is not a menial job ……

        The West produces so many of these Nobel Prize in Economics winners, while the East produces real work.

    • Krugman was one of two Fed chief candidates in 2006. The other guy got it.

  12. cassandratoday says:

    75% of the new jobs are restaurant & bar workers.
    20% are hotel workers and other “hospitality” jobs.
    5% are all other sectors.

    24,000 jobs created in the whole rest of the economy!

    And this is cause for celebration?

    • roddy6667 says:

      A lot of the people supposedly employed are underemployed, working some shit job to keep a roof over their head. American exceptionalism.

      • Sir Eduard R. Dingleberry III says:

        American exceptionalism:

        1.) Everyone should stop at the 4-way stop except me.

        2.) It’s everyone’s fault except me.

        • Wolfbay says:

          We’re also exceptional because we can keep printing money
          and borrowing more and more for ever. We have the largest public and private debt in the history of the world already but we can do better.

        • Sam says:


          3.) In God we trust, everyone else cash.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      YES, if you’re a restaurant worker!!!!!!!!

  13. C says:

    For consideration…….I work for a company that has kept thousands of employees on payroll compliments of the tax payer! How much higher would these numbers be without government cheese? As a side note my company just announced management bonuses while simultaneously lobbying the government for an airline Cares act round three! Good times right there!


  14. Old school says:

    From the age breakdown I have seen the employment participation problem has been mostly in younger age people. Could be a lot of reasons for that. In my dad’s generation you were proud to have gotten off the farm and have nearly any kind of job that gave you money as subsistence farming didn’t generate cash.

    • Paul from NC says:

      Yet here I am in 2021 comfortable saying that I would kill for a chance to subsistance-farm like my parents did.

  15. End-the-Fed, Now! says:

    In 1970, it required about 27 hours of work at minimum wage to buy an ounce of gold. In 2021, it requires about 235 hours (not a typo!) of work at minimum wage to buy an ounce of gold.

    People, wake up. You have been robbed blind by your representatives in Congress and the Fed (a for-profit, privately-owned corporation).

    The purchasing power of our minimum wage fiat dollars has plummeted relative to that of gold by, what, 90% in 50 years and 99% since 1913?

    $1.45/hr min. wage
    $38.90/oz gold
    ** In 1970, one had to work 26.83 hours at minimum wage to buy one oz of gold.

    $7.25/hr min. wage
    $1,702.25/oz gold
    ** In 2021, one needs to work 234.79 hours at minimum wage to buy one oz of gold. It’s even worse, since the price of physical gold is suppressed!

    People, the Fed (and most members of Congress) must be abolished! STAT.

  16. Sydney says:

    Maybe a couple of things feeding into the percent of workforce working. One is that a lot of parents quit last year to stay home with kids out of school. That will get better when the virus situation improves.

    The other is a more long term trend – side hustles. Whole lotta people, especially young ones, making money that don’t show in official jobs or even gig jobs. Selling crafts on Etsy, reselling used clothes, renting rooms in Airbnb, blogging, YouTube revenue, online tutoring. Usually not the money of W2 wages, but it’s not insignificant as a source of income these days.

    • Cookdoggie says:

      Regarding the long term trend of side hustles…Wolf can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe his employment-to-population charts above are based on the household surveys, not the establishment ones. If true, then gig workers ARE included in the results, and that’s not a reason for the decline.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Yes, the employment-population ratio is based on tens of thousands of household surveys, not the establishment surveys. And gig workers are included.

  17. DR DOOM says:

    Job one for Americans is consuming which is paid for by printing money. The Fed had better get busy printing at least the next six month economy. If not,even OWJ will be jolted to a semi-conscience state.

  18. ru82 says:

    I would think the number of people in the labor force will jump a lot once the illegal aliens are given citizenship? Probably by 8 to 10 million. This should also boost the percent of people working?

  19. Gian says:

    What am I missing here about “minimum wage”? Minimum wage will always be minimum wage and never a living wage, regardless of how high they raise it. It is all relative, as you raise minimum wage virtually everything else will rise in relation to it, be it rent, food, utilities, gas, etc… If I pay more for my burger, you pay more for your rent and so it goes. Do you actually believe that employers forced to pay higher wages will not pass on those costs?

    • MarMar says:

      McDonald’s costs include things other than labor, so even if labor costs double, and those costs are fully passed on, the price of a Big Mac will increase but it won’t double.

    • Mark says:

      You are missing quite alot if you think “minimum wage” will never be a “living wage”. Look outside your bubble.

      Look overseas.

      • Yort says:

        Germany, Canada, Netherlands, etc have a minimum wage in the $10/hour range USD. That seems very reasonable, to set the US minimum wage at $10/hr immediately.

        That said, each state and local govt should tweak the minimum wage as I live in a high cost area in which even Dairy Queen starts pay at $15. Other areas in my state will be hard pressed to afford $10/hour. Attempting to lump 50 states, which in many ways are 50 different countries, into a “one size fits all” minimum wage is minumum foresight to the unintended consequences for less expensive areas of America. County to county minimum wage should also vary, leave my county and $10/hour would be a huge minimum wage. So some areas need less than $10/hr, others should be more like $20/hour. Does anyone really think it wise to pay only $15/hour in New York, yet force Mississippi (poorest state in USA) to pay $15/hour? Seems kind of cruel to Missisippi companies, and cruel to New Yorkers workers as $15/hour is not enough to survive New York City…

  20. Double Bluff says:

    Draft beer is the best gauge of a dollar’s worth. In 1933 my dad could buy 20 beers for a dollar. In 1968 I could buy 4. Today a dollar might get you a sniff.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Bought a couple of nickle draft beer in the bowery in NYC in the spring of 1963,,, then went next door the Village Gate, and paid a dollar to listen to a folk singer last name Dylan, and a comedy duo named Smothers Brothers.
      As said above,,, the whole minimum wage versus cost of living is VERY location specific,,, but, having said that, no doubt the federal guv mint will screw both up eventually and eternally.

  21. fizzy says:

    Since a lot of talk about past conditions here is my 10c and its not about the money
    60 years ago at age 10 I was delivering drugs for the local drug store on my pushbike. No big deal then but probably wouldn’t be considered today.
    25 years ago a friend and I were walking past the Capitol, side door was open (no guard) so we went in. Wandered the beautiful corridors admiring everything, got to one of the chambers in session – 2 friendly guards and metal detect wand – went in to listen to the debate.
    Things have changed.

  22. GotCollateral says:

    Dead labor bounce… sponsored by future “growth” pulled forward to keep the zombies alive and fed…

  23. Lisa_Hooker says:

    Minimum wage is too simplistic for advanced societies such as ours. Much better would be maximum prices allowing the poor a living. And, think of how much “innovation” will soar, think of all the “new” products that will appear.

    I have had employees at minimum wage, that, when considering overhead costs, were negative cash flow. They didn’t last long and became unemployed by me.

  24. Mira says:

    As a result of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns many businesses were closed At first it was ..
    “Oh God no, our life’s work gone.”
    Then it became ..
    “I was chained to this business & it was killing me.”

  25. Mira says:

    It is a brave new world out there .. let go of yesterday .. it’s gone forever.

  26. Mira says:

    Dr. Joseph Cardiologist .. tall attractive well dressed nice voice soft curls here & there & he talks.
    me .. “You’ve got curly hair”
    him .. “I use curlers”
    3 min pause me .. “No U don’t U’d be there all night”
    He looked at me ..
    3 min pause me .. “U eat your crusts”
    him .. big smile.

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