People Not Looking for Work, Labor Force Drops. But Households Report Strong Gains in Jobs & Self-Employment

Big drop in government jobs (education) blamed on seasonal adjustments gone awry.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The two big components in the jobs report today – the data from surveys of 60,000 households and the data from surveys of 144,000 employers at 697,000 individual worksites – diverged further: Households reported strong gains in jobs, and this includes the self-employed; but employers (businesses, governments, and nonprofits) reported slim gains in their payrolls, dragged down by a sharp decline in government jobs.

Households said that the number of people working, including the self-employed, jumped by 526,000 in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, after having jumped by 509,000 in August, and by 1.04 million in July. Over the past three months combined, 2.1 million additional people were working, either in regular jobs or self-employed (red line).

But employers –including governments – said that they added only 194,000 folks to their payrolls in September. The figures for July were revised up by 38,000 to 1.09 million, and for August by over one third, by 131,000, to 366,000. Over the past three months combined, employers added 1.7 million jobs (green line)

Households also reported that the number of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) fell by 496,000.

The strength in the data from households is also reflected in the employment-population ratio, which rose to 58.7% (from 58.5% in August), the highest since March 2020; and by the unemployment rate, which fell to 4.8% (from 5.2% in August).

The average work week in September rose by 0.2 hours to 34.8 hours. The hourly wage increased by 19 cents for the month and by 4.6% from a year ago, to $30.85 per hour. “The data for recent months suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages,” the BLS noted.

Timing of the data and federal unemployment benefits.

The household and employer data are based on surveys that were collected by about the 12th of the month, and reflected the early part of September.

The federal unemployment payments under the CARES Act, PUA (for the self-employed), PEUC, PAC, and MEUC expired on September 4. But that’s not when payments stopped. Payments for prior weeks, and in some cases months, for unemployment claims through September 4 are still going out since a lot of these payments are running late.

People are not returning to the labor force.

The labor force data – derived from the household surveys – show that many people still have not returned to the labor force, and are still not looking for a job, because they retired, or are resting on their stock market-crypto-housing laurels – the Fed’s infamous “Wealth Effect,” – or cannot find a daycare center, or feel threatened by the virus, or are chasing quality of life, or whatever. If they can afford it, good for them.

The labor force is defined as people who either had a job during the survey period or who were actively looking for a job in the prior four weeks.

People who might in the future want to work but weren’t actively looking for a job during the weeks prior to the survey aren’t considered to be in the labor force.

After initially bouncing back sharply from the collapse in April last year, the labor force hasn’t made much progress. And in September, it fell by 183,000 people and remains down by 3.2 million people from December 2019.

The decline in the labor force of 183,000 in September is notable because households reported an increase in employment of 526,000. And by extension, the number of people actively looking for a job in September plunged. This also produced the sharp drop in the unemployment rate to 4.8%.

And the decline of the labor force by 3.2 million people since December 2019 indicates why employers have been hollering about labor shortages. The Fed’s Beige Book reported that employers couldn’t meet demand because of “extensive,” “widespread,” “intense,” “acute,” “persistent,” “broad,” and “ongoing” “labor shortages.” The labor force also explains in part why there are a record 11.7 million unfilled job openings.

Employment in federal, state, and local governments fell by 123,000 workers in September, the first drop since February, and remains 851,000 workers below where it had been before the pandemic. During the pandemic, federal government employment has remained roughly steady, but employment at state and local governments plunged. This year, it started bouncing back.

In September, the employment losses occurred at state and local governments, which shed a combined 161,000 workers in education. Employment in private education fell by 19,000.

Seasonal adjustments gone awry again? The pandemic has upended typical seasonality across the board, from real estate sales to retail sales, and seasonal adjustments based on past performance went awry across the board too. In August 2020, the BLS acknowledged the distortions produced by seasonal adjustments to unemployment claims. Today, the BLS said this about the drop in education employment:

“Hiring this September was lower than usual, resulting in a decline after seasonal adjustment. Recent employment changes are challenging to interpret, as pandemic-related staffing fluctuations in public and private education have distorted the normal seasonal hiring and layoff patterns.”

Employment in manufacturing rose by 26,000 workers in September, and by 114,000 over the past three months, to 12.5 million jobs, amid loud complaints about difficulties in hiring qualified people. Payrolls were still down by 353,000, or by 2.8%, from February 2020. Average hours worked remained at 40.4 hours per week, overtime rose to 3.3 hours per week.

But manufacturing production, by expanded automation and overtime, has more than fully recovered and in August hit the highest level since January 2019.

And manufacturers are screaming not only about labor shortages but also about material shortages and delays, including the devastating chip shortages that has waylaid automakers.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry rose by 74,000 jobs for the month and by 520,000 over the past three months. Restaurants, bars, hotels, and casinos are strenuously trying to hire workers, and have the greatest difficulties doing so for a variety of reasons, including pay, hours, working conditions, and the risks associated with constant exposure to the public. Many former workers in that sector may have moved on to different jobs. Employment was still down by 1.59 million from the peak in February 2020:

Employment in Construction rose by 22,000 workers for the month, and by 34,000 over the past three months, to 7.45 million workers, amid loud complaints by construction companies of massively delayed projects due to material shortages of all kinds, from the most mundane fasteners to windows.

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  166 comments for “People Not Looking for Work, Labor Force Drops. But Households Report Strong Gains in Jobs & Self-Employment

  1. Truckman says:

    If people aren’t actively looking for work because there is no job with an acceptable combination of salary, hours, and conditions, then they should still be counted as part of the labor force.
    It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Big employers advertise slave wages and conditions, nobody takes them, the labor force magically declines, and the big employers then claim they need imported labor because the labor force is too small, not because of the real reason which is unacceptable wages and conditions. The government’s own research round here shows that, thanks mainly to rampant accommodation inflation, the minimum wage is only 65% of what it costs to live normally. The only reason the imports can do it is that they are breaking all the rules about bed occupancy – 8 people in a 3 bed house is very common – and the Government refuses to enforce the rules.
    That was my experience in the UK also where there is an entire shadow market in accommodation and employment. Not only are the health and safety aspects being ignored, but the taxation is too. Not just property taxes, but the ‘job offer’ which turns out to be ‘counted as self-employed’ scam which dodges employer taxes. Even the supposedly most honest of our political parties is making ‘job offers’ like this now. The hypocrisy is staggering. This in turn leads to tax increases for all the normal inhabitants, which further increases the gap between a liveable wage and that being offered.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Try 25-30 people sleeping every night in a small 3BR house Tman, as opposed to ”8 people in a 3 bed house is very common”
      Don’t know where you are seeing this, but can absolutely confirm direct experience with my numbers above in a hood where I was going to schools in the 1950s, and similar first hand observations else where…
      Don’t blame the folks working hard and doing their best to ”make it” in USA,,, most of them in my personal experience are good people,,, good at supporting family wherever they are, and good workers, far shore…
      Certainly a challenge for guv mint to figure out how to harness the energy/synergy of these folks to make USA a better place for all of us,,,,
      Not holding my breath, mostly due to ”political” confusion and all the other efforts of the oligarchy to pit us against each other to maintain their hegemony, SO FAR.
      Keeping in mind that the only constant is CHANGE,,, and WE the PEONS might have another chance at the brass ring sooner and later, eh

      • Truckman says:

        You did not read anywhere that I blame the imports, nor will you. The problem is that the government has defined legally acceptable living conditions, health and safety at work rules, etc, then deliberately allows them to be broken by the imports for the convenience of the big employers. Those same big employers who are so generous to political party funds; such a coincidence. It also has tax rules, which it deliberately allows to be broken, etc.
        If you obey the law, you lose. Not only is it no way to run a society, it is, de facto, not a just society.

        • Joe Saba says:

          I routinely get asked if I have work – if i say yes then they want to be paid in cash
          when I say fine- but you’ll get 1099 they disappear like ghost’s
          our bluecoat city has proposition in nov
          if you hire someone for just 5 hours week then city job cops can come in and declare them employees and stick you with w-2 taxes instead of 1099 them
          govt IS PROBLEM

      • Depth Charge says:

        Vintage loves him some cheap, illegal labor. Makes you wonder….

        • RightNYer says:

          Nothing against Vintage personally, but I’m really getting tired of the tripe that we’re going to solve all of our problems by importing third world poverty, and I’m tired of the romanticizing of mass migration. In fact, many of our problems are the result of that!

        • Anthony A. says:

          Have to agree, RNY, living here in south Texas and currently being “overrun”. Pres invited them in, but didn’t mention a plan to house and feed them… Guess what?

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          In some countries like Russia, they do actually utilize migrant labor well; Unfortunately, the migrants aren’t always treated fairly. Legal migrant labor can be beneficial.

          Simply being born in America, no matter the circumstance makes you an automatic citizen, few countries do this, this has to end. In most counties entering illegally bars you from trying to claim citizenship. Mass immigration doesn’t benefit America. Only immigration from fellow developed countries and certain STEM graduates from anywhere, as well as a handful of people applying legally benefits America. As America’s population grows, it will become poorer per person, on top of many other negative effects.

      • Tony22 says:

        Since when is it “illegal” for 30 people to sleep in a house? Providing that fire safety codes are followed as far as exits and windows…

        One garbage can, one high speed internet connection, one water bill,one landline, that’s how 14 of us make it in one 3 unit building in San Francisco. Nothing goes to waste. No babysitters needed, no housesitters.

        Relatives came over from H.K. years ago, work 70 hours a week, save almost everything. You want a job? Be prepared to work that schedule and get the same lousy pay. Bet you can’t save anything.

        • Truckman says:

          The rules are usually in city ordinances, and limit occupancy by both floor area, and by number and size of bedrooms, and by whether the occupants are related or not. Four people would be a typical (e.g. Virginia) maximum for occupants who are not related, whatever the house size.

        • RightNYer says:

          Why should Americans have to compete with quasi-slave labor from overseas?

        • Apple says:

          Many cities have anti-bordello laws that apply to unrelated women living together.

        • James Charles says:

          “But this is evasion and deception. The mass immigration of the past decade wasn’t caused just by the absence of transitional controls on new EU member states. It was the result of a policy of encouraging immigration to generate economic growth – a policy NuLab copied from Bill Clinton’s America. In a
          speech about the policy, then Home Office minister Barbara Roche said:
          ‘The evidence shows that economically driven migration can bring substantial overall benefits both for growth and the economy. In the United States, as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has commented, the huge recent inflow of migrants – 11 million in the 1990s – has been key to sustaining America’s longest-ever economic boom.’”
          http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster68/lob68-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

        • CreditGB says:

          One big false premise in this discussion came at the start.

          The erroneous assumption that minimum wage work was ever intended to be:

          a) a permanent career or,
          b) that it in anyway is intended to support a family.

          These are literally first rung jobs, more of a training ground for workers to be responsible, show up on time, be ready to work, and to interact with the customers and public appropriately.

          We need to stop with the Marxist “workers of the world unite” BS.

          Want $80k or more? Get off your arse, get off the bottom rungs, and prove yourself to be an energetic problem solver, not a victim.

          The world is sick and tired of whining victims blaming everyone above them for their lack of initiative and work ethics.

          Now off of the soap box and back to work.

        • phoenix says:

          CreditGB,

          And if you’re not getting any labor at the wages you’re offering then stop whining as well. Workers of the world should absolutely unite. Unlike you, most of us do not enjoy being cucked by bezos, zuckerberg, corrupt central bankers, and elected officials. But keep fighting that good fight on the message boards buddy, maybe they’ll let you polish their knobs if you ask nicely and you can feel like you’re a part of the big boys club!

      • Ron says:

        Quit electing people that don’t even know how to shop for groceries

        • Michigan J Frogg says:

          Great comment, Ron. I could not agree more!!

        • CreditGB says:

          But Ron, they wouldn’t be able to qualify for any job, let alone keep a job in the private sector. You know, the private sector, that place that funds their high lifestyle.

        • Randy says:

          “There’s really no point to voting. If it made any difference, it would probably be illegal.” ~ H. L. Mencken

          “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” ~ H. L. Mencken

          “The next time they give you all that civic bullshit about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election” ~ George Carlin

          “You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your f**kin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street.” ~ George Carlin

    • RH says:

      Amen but please separate into paragraphs.

    • josap says:

      HUD occupancy is 2 per bedroom, plus 1. So 7 people in a 3 bedroom is fine. If 3 of the kids are the same sex, ok for 1 of the bedrooms. If 3 are under age 3, ok for 1 of the bedrooms.

    • Balzak says:

      Your thoughts on a an apparent “grand conspiracy” regarding employment are incorrect. The local Burger King down the street is paying $15 an hour to start with $750 signing bonus. Same with almost every retailer I drive by. Your thoughts on the minimum wage being only 65% of the cost of living? Minimum wage is not meant to be a livable wage. The majority of employees are not at minimum wage but at higher than minimum wage. Biden’s Covid payments have not entirely stopped as there is a lag in the payments and many are receiving their delayed payments still. We had the lowest unemployment in history prior to Covid. Doesn’t take a rocket science to see if you give free money to people, they will take it and go to the beach instead of going back to work.

      • FDR Socialist says:

        @Balzak, The “free lunch” paid to those in the working class pale compared to those in the top 10%, 1% and .1% during Covid.

        Bezos, Gates, Buffet, etc., are the poster children of sucking on the government tit. When the private FED, the ECB and quasi private and public BOJ dropped the MOABs on the banks by increasing its balance sheet who prospered?

        The billionaire capitalists increased their wealth from approximately $2.9 T to approximately $4.8 T from March 2020 to August 2021 or increased their wealth by almost 62%.

        Do you think that the working class increased their wealth by a commensurate percentage amount?

        Did their real wages increase during the pandemic?

        If you aren’t at the table you are on the menu.

      • Randy says:

        That all depends where you live. In the South you wont find no burger flipping job for $15 a hour. Wages are not the same across the country. You must not travel much do you? Wages change from location to location. Ive seen Burger Kings in the midwest paying that $15 a hour that barely have customers. But in the South ive seen burger kings that pay minimum wage where the workers are swamped by customers. It’s demographics.
        Like in real estate its location, location, location. One size does not fit all.

    • Thomas Pained says:

      Dear Truckman,

      Your post is a conundrum of what governments do and should not do. There are slave wages being offered. However, some of those jobs should not be looked at as a career. But then there is the flip side where there aren’t any higher wage alternatives. I have been in that position and it can take years to figure out an alternative.

      Thank you for mentioning the occupancy rate of residential homes or apartments (I presume). I live in Tucson, Arizona. My neighborhood is seeing this increase in people in one home. Like you say, 8 people in a 3 bedroom house is common. It’s a real world example that indicates higher cost of living and consolidation of purchasing power. It’s very similar behavior to third world economies. It can be noticed by 4 to 6 automobiles per house in the driveway and side streets. It’s not appealing one bit. And to the HOA doesn’t penalize that behavior.

      To your point of government enforcement and shadow market employment. The government is your problem. There is a fine balance of market and government rules and regulations that the Britannia has lost a long long long time ago. I side with the black market marketeers. Get government out of the way with their inefficiencies and theft through heavy taxation.

      And finally, people are just freakin lazy today. There is no love of craft and workmanship. People are decadent, carefree, and ignorant to the extreme. They are a bunch of Nero’s watching Rome burn as they contemplate their next film on Netflix and doodad purchase on Amazon.

      God help us all!

  2. Shiloh1 says:

    Saying F (the heck with) it. Not all about unemployment and stimmies.

    John Michael Greer blog post of 10/6.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Shiloh1,

      Households reported that the number of people who are working jumped by 526,000 in September. So lots of people actually started working again.

      • MCH says:

        What do you think is accounting for this divergence. Is there a time lag between the data from employers and for households?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          MCH,

          Good question. I don’t have sold answers. So just guessing here.

          One aspect is the self-employed. They do not get picked up by the establishment survey because they’re not on the payrolls. So if there was a burst in activity because the PUA benefits for the self-employed expired and people started doing their gigs again, that would explain part of it.

          Timing could also be a factor, and then it will catch up eventually, as it usually does.

        • RedRaider says:

          Consider the dual wage earner family. Maybe one of them went back to work and the other decided to stay at home. Could be for various reasons…. couldn’t find childcare, cost of gas, etc.

          Wouldn’t that pretty much explain it?

      • Bead says:

        Black market? Better let the IRS examine those bank accounts. Nah, we don’t need to collect taxes when we can make a data entry.

      • Bobber says:

        A lot of people came off furlough from the airlines in Aug/Sept, timed to coincide with the ending of federal unemployment benefits.

      • cas127 says:

        I wonder if the G puts out a big book somewhere, that explains in detail why so many G surveys of largely the same thing…very, very often yield significantly different results.

        The G spends a lot of money on overlapping surveys and stats, but apparently not so much on reconciling/explaining survey methodologies.

        • cas127 says:

          Half a million people here, half a million people there, pretty soon you are talking a million people.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          These two survey sets are actually a good idea because they look at the job market from both sides, from the employer’s side, and from the household’s side. That’s why they’re released as one package.

      • Kurtismayfield says:

        Back to school perhaps? Think of all the bus drivers, support staff, etc that don’t work in the summer.

        Plus the spouses/husband’s who went back to work this year now that their babysi.. err.. school situation is secure

      • Thomas Pained says:

        Dear Mr. Wolf Richter,

        If punching in at work and putting your nose to the iPhone, then yes. People are starting to “work” again.

  3. Minutes says:

    I’ve seen more people quitting then ever before. They’ve had enough. (Would rather not discuss the industry)

    • David Allen says:

      I want to know so as to avoid it.

      • cas127 says:

        Military.

        Of course, you get thrown in the brig if you say it is because of your long tenured, grotesquely incompetent, and utterly unaccountable superiors.

        America’s General Failure.

        Btw, today here are about 900 generals in the US armed forces at any one time and Eisenhower crapped better military men than many of them.

  4. MCH says:

    Educational jobs falling… say, would those jobs include public universities? If so, would that in turn impact the export of services? Remember all of those foreign students who come to the US to receive better education would technically be export of service jobs. Would they be counted as a part of exports.

    Or would that not be broken out to that degree.

    Heheh, I like the odd linkages that might show up between different blog post.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      MCH,

      They may not actually be falling. The “decline” may have been due to screwed-up seasonal adjustments, as the BLS pointed out. We’ve run into bad seasonal adjustments ever since the pandemic started because nothing is like it used to be, and seasonal adjustments pretend that nothing has changed.

  5. MF says:

    I hope manufacturing keeps its strong growth trends. Depending on overseas factories for critical components and supplies has been causing havoc ever since we couldn’t get enough medical grade masks for everyone.

    Hospitality and restaurants have a tough row to hoe. They are notoriously difficult jobs that also relegate you to a low social standing. A lot of people love to abuse customer service workers, justifying it by claiming their own superiority. Good luck finding people to come back to these precarious jobs after they all got thrown out on their ear during the pandemic.

    Corporate jobs have permanently lost their luster among young workers. This is a disaster for HR departments that won’t be solved soon.

    • Truckman says:

      It won’t be solved because HR IS The Problem.
      Humans are not resources, and treating them that way for the last 20 years is why we are where we are.

  6. VintageVNvet says:

    Try 25-30 people sleeping every night in a small 3BR house Tman, as opposed to ”8 people in a 3 bed house is very common”
    Don’t know where you are seeing this, but can absolutely confirm direct experience with my numbers above in a hood where I was going to schools in the 1950s, and similar first hand observations else where…
    Don’t blame the folks working hard and doing their best to ”make it” in USA,,, most of them in my personal experience are good people,,, good at supporting family wherever they are, and good workers, far shore…
    Certainly a challenge for guv mint to figure out how to harness the energy/synergy of these folks to make USA a better place for all of us,,,,
    Not holding my breath, mostly due to ”political” confusion and all the other efforts of the oligarchy to pit us against each other to maintain their hegemony, SO FAR.
    Keeping in mind that the only constant is CHANGE,,, and WE the PEONS might have another chance at the brass ring sooner and later, eh

  7. RightNYer says:

    I think it’s more people going Galt. The system is so corrupt and beyond repair, with money becoming increasingly detached from work, that people are just giving up.

    • Truckman says:

      The opposite of alt-right is mainstream-wrong ;)

      • COWG says:

        T-man,

        Lots of streams in the big ole bad world…

        The only one that matters is the one that carries money…

        Given the right set of circumstances, you too, will sell your soul…

        And don’t say you won’t, because you will…

        Proven many times over…

        • Truckman says:

          I have a track record that says I won’t, including quitting two careers with no job to go to, and emigrating.
          I would agree that there aren’t very many like me, but we do exist. I know a few, as you tend to end up in the same areas doing the same things.

        • COWG says:

          T-man,

          I absolutely agree with you… I am the same…

          However, all circumstances are not the same as ours, including many self inflicted wounds on ones economic well being…

          On the other hand, so many people think they are so smart today but it could possibly be only due to the circumstances of having been at the right time of history…

          Circumstances work both ways…

          BTW, thanks for your posts…

    • Depth Charge says:

      Now this latest abomination of an administration is going after the little guy, pouring over every transaction above $600 in their bank accounts while Weimar Boy and his ilk are day trading stocks on their own information, on their way to unimaginable wealth.

      • Bobber says:

        Correction. They aren’t asking for transaction level information, but they would see total deposits and withdrawals from the accounts.

        That said, the $600 threshold makes no sense to me. Why not make the threshold $100,000 or more, if you are truly going after the big tax cheaters.

        • Depth Charge says:

          Because they’re going after the little guy, that’s why. It’s just more of the same ol’ class warfare so they can take every last penny from the working man.

        • MCH says:

          When I first saw that item I thought this was some weirdo conspiracy theory; the admin calling for monitoring of inflow and outflow of that tiny amount is so backwards, it’s can’t possibly be a real proposal.

          I remember the reporting for possible criminal activities was $10K back in the late 80s/early 90s. I can say with certainty that $600 today isn’t worth more than $600 30 years ago. And oddly, this was a real thing, and I read some justification on some mainstream media site somewhere that the whole thing is somehow targeting the rich…. f*** that noise.

          The most ridiculous part was the “fact checking” by the mainstream media around it, saying, it’s just a proposal by the Biden administration, it’s not a decision yet. The fact that the ACLU, and the mainstream media is not up at arms about this idiocy just tells you how screwed up this country is.

        • COWG says:

          I like the IRS…

          They are the nicest bunch of people who has ever taken $20k from me…

          We actually have a very mature relationship…

          They ask for money, I send it…

        • BuySome says:

          Doubtful that there has ever been any real shortages of either coins * or heroine. But the shadow powers have concluded we need a new law of “use a dollar bill, go to jail”. If you were not a Sid Vicious in the past, you will be in the future…conviction by mere connection. “This is New York boy, Murder one in court boy. This is New York boy, You ain’t never gonna walk.” [Dum Dum Club] (*Actually saw this on the sidebar box of register screens of a big thrift chain yesterday, so they are pushing this line still. Guess they didn’t think we’d look over their shoulders for the slight-of-hands parlor tricks.)

        • Apple says:

          Corporate taxes have fallen from 35% of total tax revenue back in the 1950’s to 10% today.

          Congress has no will to increase taxes on corporations and it will probably fall to 0% by the end of the decade.

          That leaves individual tax payers to make up the difference.

  8. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I am honestly jealous of people who had the guts to quit. I don’t actually hate my job, but at the same time, it’s not like everyday I am actively looking forward to doing my job either.

    • Voltamom says:

      I can definitely agree with your feelings there. It’s tough to get started every day, but gotta do it.

    • Depth Charge says:

      That’s why it’s called “work,” not “fun.” Work is hard, not easy street. My body is finally telling me there is an end to what I do. I am in pain more days than not. I thought I might have 10 years left. That was too optimistic. But I will go until I cannot go any further. At that point I don’t really care how much life I have left, because I no longer like this country and system. It’s miserable. Checking out seems a blessing. “Retirement?” HAH! That’s a new concept which is going the way of the buggy whip for most.

      • Apple says:

        Seek counseling from a certified professional. Suicide is never the answer.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Depth Charge,

        We love you, and we want you to see the bright side of life, the light when you come out at the other side of the tunnel. Don’t give up now.

      • topcat says:

        Lets get some cash togther and buy Depth Charge a crate or two of beer.
        Wolf?

      • Trailer Trash says:

        “But I will go until I cannot go any further.”

        At that point you will be classified as a Useless Eater, along with all the Long COVID people who may or may not ever get their lives back, and everyone else with chronic illness that severely limits their lives.

        Uncle Sam Land likes to brag about being Christian but doesn’t like to think on the question, “Who would Jesus throw away?”

  9. David Hall says:

    September wages increased 4.6% since 9/2020. Employers had to raise wages to find and keep employees.

  10. SC says:

    One of the biggest problems employers are having in Indiana, is retaining workers. Even after they started paying $15-17 per hour employees are quitting after a few weeks or months. The issue seems to be everyone is paying the same wages, so an employee how is unhappy about their work schedule, the boss, fellow employees, or just feel like not working next week, can quit one job and immediately get hired at another job for the same pay.

    These are crazy times. I think the next employment report will show a big increase in employment since the data will be from the 12th of October and most unemployment benefits have been cut off. Also, it takes people time to change their mindset of having to work again.

    • Bobber says:

      $15 to $17 per hour is crap pay for anyone looking at doing the job long-term. That’s only about $36k per year. Who can afford to work for that rate when housing prices have gone up 15% per year for several years straight, and everyday needs like food, transportation and medical care going up at least 5% per year.

      In the Seattle area, with that wage rate, you’d have to get a scummy apartment for $1500/month. That’s absorbs 50% of your income. That leaves you with only $18k annually for other expenses. Saving for the future???…..forget about it.

      I suppose you could live out of a tent or van and save a little.

      We need the higher paying manufacturing jobs back. That means penalizing companies that produce outside the US for import into the US. When will legislators finally have the guts to do this? Wrist slaps and trash talk doesn’t count.

      • Depth Charge says:

        That scummy apartment is well over 50% of take home income, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 65%. What Weimar Boy Powell and Co. have done is criminal.

      • roddy6667 says:

        36K a year for two people is 72K household income. That’s higher than the average household income. Crap pay? Half the people are doing this in America.

        • Bobber says:

          If we are going to assume two-earner families and $72k total income, then take away $4k for the larger-size cruddy apartment, $24k for day care and $10k for income taxes. You still don’t have anything left for savings. Make a misstep on Tesla and Bitcoin, and you’ll be eating dog food.

      • COWG says:

        Bobber,

        Manufacturing what?

        Consumer level goods?

        That ship has sailed and consumers (bottom 70%) ain’t gonna pay a 100% price increase for Made in USA…

        They are too used to the China crack…

      • roddy6667 says:

        The spreadsheets don’t lie. That’s why the jobs left. Many products can’t be made profitably in America any more. It’s too expensive. The company would be bankrupt in 90 days. The jobs are not coming back.

      • polecat says:

        What!!! You think CONgrease will ‘legislate/repatriate’ jobs back to the US back to the US back the now socialisticly woke USsA?

        No way! .. That entire wrecking crew is only in it for Their Own Gain ..

        Go ahead everyone – sing along with Mitch & Nancy … “MINE, OUR’$ MINE, OUR’$ mine, mine, mine, OUR’S – NOT your’s”

      • Ron says:

        Gas is up 50% in one year ,l didn’t vote him in

      • taxpayer says:

        You’re comparing Indiana wages to Seattle rents. Median asking rent for 2 bedroom apt. in Indianapolis, per Wolf’s post last month, is $1,000. Probably less in smaller cities.

      • kurtismayfield says:

        $15 is 30k, $17 is 32k..

      • Candyman says:

        In math two sides of the equation must equal. So, increase wages (Good idea) = increase of willingness of consumers to pay higher prices. Please…Not all companies are sucking away money. We are not all evil….but we can not simply increase payroll without consumer willingness.

  11. Max Power says:

    So the main question I think is, at what point does U-3, from the perspective of of people who are actively looking for work vs. the insane number of unfilled job sync. up? In other words, unemployment (as measured by U-3) is still “highish” at 4.8% but at a time when jobs more than plentiful.

    Thus, there is an apparent disconnect between vast sums of people testifying that they are “looking for work” and a vast number of job openings at the same time. At some point either folks will start answering the question with “I am not looking for work” and/or get jobs. When that happens, the unemployment rate should drop significantly and the Fed will need to respond appropriately. If this doesn’t happen then the paradox will continue… The only possible resolution then must be a total re-thinking of what unemployment in general means.

    • Apple says:

      Companies might at some point decide to stop drug testing and hire applicants with bad credit.

      If they get really desperate, they might even start hiring applicants with non violent felony convictions.

      Until that point, the meme is ‘lazy Americans won’t work’.

    • Kurtismayfield says:

      The U6 is Pretty close to the low in Jan 2020 (8.5 vs 6.9).. and the working age population is down from it’s high:

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/u6rate

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LFWA64TTUSM647S

      People are retiring and leaving the workforce.

    • RedRaider says:

      The labor force is defined to be those who have a job or are actively looking for a job. During the pandemic/lockdown many people lost their jobs and nobody was looking for jobs. This would have dramatically decreased the size of the labor force.

      Now imagine all these people looking for jobs post lockdown. We can expect a dramatic increase in the size of the labor force. The latest reading of the labor force participation rate down ticked from the prior month but Apr-Sep are all higher than Jan-Mar.

      The labor force is the denominator in the unemployment rate calculation. Hence, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a decrease in the unemployment rate because of that expanding denominator. The unemployment rate for September was 4.8% down from 5.2% in August. Not one person would have had to take a job, merely look for one.

      Who knows why people would look for jobs but not take the job. Maybe they were after that bonus for merely applying that I’ve read about. Maybe employers are trying to pay for labor at pre lockdown levels in a post lockdown world of 5.5% inflation. Maybe the employer was advertising a full time job that turned out to be part time. Maybe it’s mandatory vaccines. Maybe it’s all of the above. If you put your imagination to the task I’m sure you can come up with others.

      As to why the Household Survey is so much larger than the Employer Survey I can’t say. I would have to see the survey question that was asked. But I suspect the reason might turn out to be the dual wage earner family. Maybe one looked for work and the other didn’t.

  12. Yort says:

    I’m sure a few people are not returning back to work due to the Fed’s “Wealth Effect”, although I’m more confident that the top 1% will never have to return to work due to the same asset inflation scheme…per Bloomberg today:

    “Top 1% of U.S. Earners Now Hold More Wealth Than All of the Middle Class”

    After years of declines, America’s middle class now holds a smaller share of U.S. wealth than the top 1%.

    The middle 60% of U.S. households by income — a measure economists often use as a definition of the middle class — saw their combined assets drop to 26.6% of national wealth as of June, the lowest in Federal Reserve data going back three decades. For the first time, the super rich had a bigger share, at 27%.

    • ru82 says:

      I have several friends in their mid 50s have retired because of how much their 401ks have increase the past 10 years.

      These are people that lived within their means. and probably at most made $100k max salary. They put a lot into their 401ks and it has paid off handsomely.

      I know several more that could retire if they wanted to but would be bored.

      Granted…they all also had pension plans too.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Pension plans are becoming a thing of the past…..unless you are a government employee. And even those government pension plans are taking hits thee days. The current real winners with pension plans are the police and fire departments in many big cities.

        • Sierra7 says:

          Anthony A.:
          Correct about (defined) pension plans!
          And the costs of maintaining those Police and Emergency Services including Fire Departments out here in California has led to the creation of “Special Tax Districts” (aka: Mello-Roos Districts) to circumvent Ca. Prop 13 taxation restrictions.
          These STD’s (aka: Mello-Roos) allow thousands of communities to continue to raise money thru special taxes to continue to support those departments.
          The understanding and the continuing support are wearing thin.

      • polecat says:

        Those 401k$ … could just as easily vanish into 0-onek$* .. at the flick of a regulator/bankster toggle – “flick” .. “I’m sorry, it$ gone …… All GONE, but remember, We’ll still be here if you’re ever in need of debt ….!

        *after all … your illustrious senators & representatives ALWAY$ need to know how to secure their VIG, no?

      • phoenix says:

        “Granted…they all also had pension plans too.”

        Must be nice

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Most of the “middle class” are actually poor by US standards of how most Americans seem to define it. If not, close to it.

      Anyone at the median for (household) income or wealth distribution is often or usually not middle class, though this depends upon where they live.

      I measure economic class status by wealth, not income, though there is correlation between the two. Plenty of people with decent or high incomes who own virtually nothing and will be exposed as the equivalent of economically naked when this house of cards falls apart.

      In several blog posts, commentator Charles Hugh Smith came up with an estimate of about $106,000 several years ago for a family of four. I consider his standard somewhat strict and not entirely an accurate reflection of his claims.

      Concurrently, it’s a lot closer to reality than any American at or near the 50th percentile being “middle class”.

    • Bobber says:

      At large companies, they are heavily pushing diversity in the workforce, so the rewards and opportunities are heavily targeted based on age, gender and/or skin color. I suppose some hard-working folks who don’t fit the diversity profile are getting frustrated. For them, the path of least resistance is to retire early, put some safety in the portfolio, have a drink, and let things unfold. This will, of course, encourage more diversity.

      • COWG says:

        Of course they are…

        I bet the original “ Jake from State Farm” is still looking for a job…

        How those clowns could screw up a classic commercial like that is beyond me…

  13. JP says:

    There may be a double whammy wealth effect on the labor markets happening. Not only do some individuals feel wealthier because of the stimmy and stock & crypto assets inflation but so do their families.

    Parents providing continuing financial support to adult children and their families is not uncommon in the US. A wealthy family might have chosen/may still be choosing during the pandemic to fund an adult child’s continuing education, business, or other pursuits rather than have them take a relatively low paying and relatively very risky retail or restaurant gig.

  14. Nick Kelly says:

    ‘Wealth effect from stocks and crypto’

    Debt allowed to go up! All clear for wealth effect into overdrive! BC over 50K!
    Don’t miss out!
    New release of this blockbuster series coming in December.

    Moving on: A few days ago WR responded to a comment by someone that the cure for all this crazy, above all in housing, was for the FED to cease QE and raise interest rates. But can this be done without a inducing a severe recession?

    One stat that sticks in my mind, if I’m recalling it correctly: almost half of US corporate bonds are rated just one notch above junk. If they fall one notch I believe they are cut off from all investments except private unregulated money. What would be the effect of such a move?

    • Petunia says:

      No more stock buybacks with borrowed money. And no more cheap borrowed money.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Ending QE and raising rates without a severe recession? Maybe or maybe not.

      Removing the support for this fake economy by “normalizing” the Fed’s balance sheet, interest rates, and government deficits to pre-2008 levels?

      That’s a recipe for an actual depression

      • Depth Charge says:

        Right, which is why it’s QE infinity. The ECB is already planning their next QE scam. The world has a central banker problem.

        • Yort says:

          Sometimes I wonder if the A.I. is already in control and using the Fed to get rid of us pesky humans…HA

          Talk about maximum carnage and chaos by a individual human who is unelected by society (easier for the A.I. to place into power). Not even the most powerful A.I. could have predicted the Fed’s efficiency at wiping out the bottom 99% on a global scale…so bow down to your motherboard overlords…LOL

          Probably not A.I., although is still JPow is a tool…

      • historicus says:

        So markets are propped up to a level that reality cannot sustain…and thus they must be sustained? Is that the logic here?
        This is just like the college debt argument….” I borrowed that large amount, but have no intention of paying it back. It will be forgiven someday…it has to be.”

        Or, the federal debt is now so big, we can’t raise rates. So the debt will continue to get larger? Is that the response to the condition? Maybe the QE should go to interest payments…

        • drifterprof says:

          Probably the Fed bank cartel is still trying to figure out how to design the next financial crisis in a convincing way (so they aren’t ID’d as the perps).

          As usual, the “crisis” will result in the filthy rich keeping their lock on profits (e.g., societies huge debt servicing costs), while various segments of normal people and sectors take the severe hits.

        • Trailer Trash says:

          “Maybe the QE should go to interest payments…”

          Which further enriches the Wall St parasites who created this mess. Some problems have no solutions that can actually be implemented. That is what we are now facing.

  15. Chris Coles says:

    The only viable long term road to a general prosperity has to come from competition for the employee. Instead what we have today is a return to classic feudalism, where the process of local community investment of what should be free enterprise equity capital, into local small businesses, the source of local prosperity; has been replaced by all savings are now fed into a financial services industry what naturally transfers the savings into any “fund” that will pay the financial adviser a slice of the savings; in turn, such funds do not invest back into what one must describe as the local community grass roots economy . . . driving the ongoing imbalances we see herein these comments. There is no incentive to change the present mechanisms for investment of savings, back to what created a natural prosperity right across the once prosperous middle classes. The only way to start a return to past prosperity has to involve a recognition of the need to collapse the present system. It ain’t broke so don’t fix it; has to be replaced with; we must break it to start the process of re-creating that lost prosperity.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      A proxy for the state of the economy is JP Morgan’s market cap and annual profits.

      It’s a firm that by my definition produces little of actual economic value which is now valued more highly than all but a very low number of companies on the planet.

    • COWG says:

      Chris,

      You ever heard of politicians?

      How about ALEC?

      How about Walmart or Amazon?

      Or skyrocketing insurance, employee tax contributions, employee pay and benefits, if you can find someone who will actually show up and work…

      privatizations ? Roads, ports, airports, parking enforcements, UK trains, European Air traffic Control, etc…

      The boomers killed it all for stock and real estate prices…

      Then their elected representatives sold out the taxpayer equity for tax cuts…

      Then after the boomers killed it, the Federal Reserve stomped the corpse in the ground…

      Today’s workers are looking at all this and say, “ why effing bother”….

  16. Cobalt Programmer says:

    1. I reflect the similar thoughts as the previous comments.
    2. Corporate jobs offers a low minimum wage and says take it or leave it. Employees choose to leave it.
    3. Imagine working from age 25 to 55 in a soul sucking job for 50 hours a week, traffic and strict bosses. After 55 or 60, most people will not be healthy to enjoy the money saved for the rest of the time.
    4. Only a few like 10% will make it to the government jobs, upper managements, get rich or play the stocks, get lucky. All others have to do 9-5 and weekends are used for being tired and catching up on sleep.
    5. Corporate HR are doing everything except offering better pay or working conditions. Pension is not available to all. Healthcare is a joke.
    6. Why work all my healthy life for a million dollar home where I go for sleeping alone.
    7. Dont pull a “work smart not hard bro”, “invest in bitcoin bro” stuff.
    8. I thus became Engels, the destroyer of the coherent thoughts.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Most people throughout history never retired, worked until they dropped dead. There is nothing outside of recent history (mostly since WWII) which implies any form of prosperity for the majority or even a substantial minority of the population.

      • Yort says:

        Once upon a time humans worked dawn to dusk to provide enough food for survival…

        Today most humans have plenty of food yet instead work the hedonic treadmill 24/7, as after taking care of basic needs, we still have too much free time left over to obsessively run the hamster wheel of life…

        The irony is the hedonic treadmill allowed us to survive this long, and now is pulling apart the fabric of society…and it probably has to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better…

        • COWG says:

          Yort,

          The hedonic treadmill was superseded by the Peloton…

          I wanted the job inside the little TV screen screaming at fat people…

          They said I had to ride a bike…

          That wasn’t happening…

        • Anthony A. says:

          COWG, people pay $50 per month to have that guy in the screen yell at them. Good job, if you can get it.

        • Apple says:

          Hunter gathers worked about 15 hours a week.

          There are letters to Adam Smith complaining people will not work in factories 6 1/2 days a week but would rather hunt, fish, and raise a few cows and sit around all week idling.

          The English solved that by banning hunting and fishing and closing tend village commons.

      • crazytown says:

        So you’re okay with giving up? We live in unique times in history where technology has led to extraordinary productivity increases. Unfortunately, all of that productivity (and this propserity) has not changed any paradigms of “work” and so therefore we only value hours of work by a human. Essentially, the productivity gains have been swallowed up by the elites. Look at a chart of productivity vs hourly wages. There is enough prosperity where we could offer dignified retirements to all, so it’s a shame that we would look back and say “nah we don’t need that, people in the past didn’t have that”

    • QQQBall says:

      I believe the result for corporations will be more automation and more immigrant labor. They offer wages near or at automation cost or immigrant labor costs, or maybe slightly above, and when the prospective employee doesn’t take the work, it will give them cover to transition to machines and press the USG for more immigration to stem inflation, stop supply shortages or (fill in the excuse). Maybe wont be just about wages ala NY healthcare workers.

  17. JoAnn Leichliter says:

    How many people left federal, state and some corporate jobs because they won’t get the jab? Gee, we can’t figure out why government employment is down. Factor in, too, all the households that have figured out that if they cut back on discretionary spending and eliminas te all the costs of two parents working, one income actually will suffice. There are lots of reasons for people not returning to work.

    • Truckman says:

      Indeed, but those households spell the death of the consumer society.
      Minimal discretionary spending and one spouse doing a lot of direct household labor means less service industries, less luxury industries, less taxation (sales AND employment AND corporate), less debt, etc. It’s a house of cards (said Alice).
      I’ve just been moving some lumber in my barn, prior to me building my own kitchen from scratch this winter. Then I shall go pick some red peppers and onions from the garden for tonight’s meal.

      • Anthony A. says:

        “Indeed, but those households spell the death of the consumer society.”

        Good point, Truckman. Many households, especially those with children, need those consumer goods that would have to be sacrificed if all Mom’s (or Dad’s) stayed at home and did the chores and changed the diapers. After all, a TV for each family member and a few other trinkets spread around like iPads and iPhones are a necessary part of the USA culture. (I know of families that have up to 10, yes 10 (ten), TV’s scattered around the house)

        So as many people working is definitely for the good of the family unit and the NATION!

        Also, since pensions from the employer are going (have gone) the way of the Dodo bird, two incomes make retirement saving “happen” so that those who make it to their Golden Years have a “nestegg” along with SS to provide them with years of stress free bliss.

        • Ron says:

          I’m kids limit the grandkids too 1 hour a day on I pad after becoming addicted at ages of 2,3,4,7, years play outside stop the insanity

    • DawnsEarlyLight says:

      Yes, vaccine hesitancy is a big factor. Surprised it was never mentioned as a possible reason.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        DawnsEarlyLight,

        It wasn’t mentioned because the assertion is antivaxxer wishful thinking BS. The percentage of people who walk away from a good job, or get fired, over refusing a vaccine that can save their life is minuscule. The antivaxxers think that these would be huge numbers, but that’s BS.

        Other government employees also have to be vaccinated. And there has been no drop in employment.

        The Federal government requires vaccinations, and its employment rose for the last three months. So there!

        • DawnsEarlyLight says:

          I understand what you are saying Wolf. I am vaccinated, but your article is about people not seeking employment, not just current employed federal workers. An increase in self-employed, but not in large employers. Minuscule sometimes adds up.

      • tom15 says:

        Jump in self employment up + August quit #’s up.

        These are the folks keeping me buried in work out here in flyover.

        The jab was just the last straw. The risk adverse & woke Corporate America sent them heading for the doors.

        This is a good thing. We need the risk takers with vision to do their magic. Corporate or Govt would just suck the life out of them.

    • fajensen says:

      How many people left federal, state and some corporate jobs because they won’t get the jab?

      I think: Very Few.

      The committed anti-vaxxers seems to follow a regular pattern* of first posting many iterations of “anti-vaxx tribal” memes, then begging for “prayer warriors”, usually a there is a dead-cat bounce in the ICU, and then a GoFundMe for the funeral.

      If many employed people desire the major inconvenience of going to the ICU over the minor effects of being vaccinated, I would think that there was some problem with the HR-process, someone breaking a rule like: “Avoid the hiring of opinionated dunderheads!”.

      *) Their pattern is of course is how they were targeted in the first place.

  18. Ted Byrley says:

    You may all be looking at the wrong thing. So far I believe the pandemic is following the 1918, 1919, and 1920 pandemic exactly including stock prices and changes in inflation and interest rates. Notice I did not say levels. Who knows for sure. I surely do not know.

  19. Dave says:

    Chris Coles, I concur with you view of things.

  20. ru82 says:

    Unemployment in the city were I live is now at 2.8% and the the state is below 4%.

    I see help wanted signs everywhere.

  21. George says:

    I am working for my family now. My daughter started a tiny construction business which i bankrolled. My spouse is working so I turned into Mr Mom and she turned in Mrs Dad since I was forced to retire from AT&T. I was threatened with less money after 23 years of loyalty…. I left 5 years in advance so I would not lose 2 years salary worth of retirement. They offered work at 70% and no benefits for a spouse so I said no. Never needed to go back to work because we downsized out of MC Mansion and went back to our smaller home which we had turned into a rental so now its back to my primary home. So we cut our energy and housing expenses by 45% and cashed out a chunk to use when the market crashes to buy a nice acreage somewhere. So yeah a lot of techies and inventors of which i am one of said no we wont work for peanuts if we dont have to and if they wait to long we might invent and start companies that replace them. Same as last century. History rhymes.

    • Anthony A. says:

      George, Good luck! That’s too bad about what AT&T pulled on you.

      I did about the same thing 28 years ago when an oil company sent me packing. I started my own engineering consulting business and made good, and retired 4 years ago. It can be done if you treat your customers well and provide quality work.

    • Petunia says:

      Heard a techie talking about why he left his tech retailer job after 4 years. His choice was to take a promotion for more work and less money per hour or leave. He mentioned recruiters at this company expect hires to stay only 2 years.

      My son has a friend who worked at this company, not in tech. He was fired by a computer. No person was involved in explaining anything to him about his termination.

  22. Mike says:

    It’s called the great resignation and it’s like a tsunami where I work. The number of staff between 55 and 60 “retiring” is mind blowing. After working from home for 18 months and then being told they have to return to working in the office and also have mandatory vaccinations is final straw for many.

    • Truckman says:

      The peasants have tasted freedom – fatal error by TPTB.

    • Bobber says:

      It’s common sense. At later stages of your career the growth and rewards are gone. A padded stock portfolio gives you enough confidence to bail out early.

      However, these early retirees better be darn sure they have safety in their portfolios, or they’ll be working at Wendy’s in five years, reporting to a 25 year-old video gamer, like many of the FIRE crowd will be doing.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Bobber,

        We had a bunch of that in 1999, when everyone thought that their stocks would double every year, or conservatively speaking, go up only 50% a year.

        When their portfolios got annihilated when the Nasdaq plunged 78% over two years, they were back looking for a job.

        • polecat says:

          I think people have no idea just how funky things will get. Gasoline, propane .. electricity, various foodstuffs, appliances, hardware .. just to name a few essentials – of ANY sort .. plus just about anything imported or foreign derived ‘added value’ either shooting into the inflation stratosphere .. or just plain unobtainium!

          Those who grok what’s coming will cope to some degree. Those who so far, are still clueless, will have quite the shock, when they realize just how unprepared they truly are.
          And speaking of essential .. we’re about to find out what is .. and what ain’t!

    • fajensen says:

      All of the colleagues I consider to be competent and OK to fun working with, they are not coming back. I am not coming back. I bought a home cheap enough to live comfortably in until I don’t need it anymore. That’s where I am going.

      I don’t understand the whining about vaccinations at all. I have had Covid-19 twice and it is no fucking joke on both occasions. The case fatality rate in the USA is now creeping up to 1.5%, with almost all of those being unvaccinated.

      Why the hell does anyone risk dying miserably with destroyed lungs, face medical bankruptcy, or maybe becoming a diaper case over something IMO stupid and worthless like “owning the libs” or whatever the hell the winning “prize” is sold as now?

      • Anthony A. says:

        fajensen, two older widows in my neighborhood decided not to get the vaccine. Both got Covid last Fall and spent two hellish weeks in the hospital. Both may never be the same at their ages of 70+. These people are clearly morons who, for no good reason, don’t get the vaccine.

  23. jon says:

    My friend is unemployed for last 16 months or so in Southern California.
    He is actively looking for last 6 months but to no avail.
    He is not aspiring for a big jump in salary or benefits. If he finds what he had he would be happy.

  24. BaritoneWoman says:

    Nick Corcodilos in his October 5 edition of Ask The Headhunter he believes there are 2 major reasons why people are not returning to work (and it’s not about laziness or unemployment benefits):

    1) The employment system is broken, and employers, hiring managers, recruiters and HR departments bear a major share of the blame for that.

    2) Disrespect for labor/employees over the decades has broken the job market.

    A quote from his article, if I may:
    “. . .much of the labor force is done with the ridiculous HR technology that has failed them for decades. It’s not that they don’t want to work or are not available to work in a safe, respectful environment at a fair price. I think they’re signaling that they’re not going to waste their time relying on a broken-down employment system that abuses them”
    unquote

    • Wolf Richter says:

      BaritoneWoman,

      That sounds good. But it’s logical only for the top 10%. You’ve got to have a pile of F-U money to be able to pull this off. The top 10% on the wealth scale have that pile.

      The bottom 50% certainly do not. They need income. They HAVE to work when unemployment benefits run out.

      There is a group in the middle that have enough to pull it off for a while but then need income again.

      People might start their own business to get out of the friggin rat race, but that would be picked up by the household data as work and would show up in these numbers.

      • Truckman says:

        True if both the employers and retirees remain in their current states. However, those who own their own rural properties and start a veggie garden, do some of their own maintenance, etc, can drop their expenditure to $15k or less per person per annum and still live comfortably (though with no travel, but what loss is that with Covid restrictions?). And how big does the fund have to be even if their lifetyle doesn’t change? I suspect a lot of people can last longer than the employers can. Quebec has just announced an $18,000 bonus just to retain nurses, and there are many other job shortages that will need to be fixed rapidly. There’s been a big move of people internally within Canada according to the latest StatsCan data, with lots shifting from Alberta and Ontario to the Maritimes. People can sell up there, buy here for a quarter of what they had there, then do no work for 10 years on the difference. Within 5 miles of me, for the five years before Covid, there was one new house built and existing sales took an average of 4 months. This year alone there are 7 new houses and every For Sale sign has had Sold on it within 3 weeks.
        The two new families I’ve spoken to have both shifted because one spouse is able to work remotely, the other now is a homemaker, and their expenses are lower. Whether it’s the life they expect and can stick with long term is another question, however.

        And those businesses they start don’t have to be completely legit, and therefore won’t show in the official data. Lots of cash work around here, and with labor shortages that’s only going to increase.

        • Petunia says:

          Canadians in healthcare have been leaving the country for years before the pandemic. It isn’t about the wages, it’s more about the cost of housing. They have been priced out for years. Many nurses take a pay cut to come to the states and are still better off because the housing is cheaper.

      • roddy6667 says:

        People start their own businesses, but the overwhelming majority of them fail. Self-employment only works out well for a few.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          I’m self employed now. Making a lot of “southern income”, and loving it more and more every day. I’m listed as “not in the labor force”. I think there are more people out there doing the same thing. That’s why the numbers don’t add up.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Swamp Creature,

          “I’m listed as “not in the labor force”.”

          You ARE in the labor force, because you’re working, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s under the table or not. But if you lie about your work, and if you say that you do not work now, and that you haven’t looked for a job, the survey would exclude you. But you have to lie to accomplish that.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Wolf hit the nail on the head. But no one has ever called me to ask what I’m doing. And no one cares. If they did call me I would say I am retired, which is true (Retired Federal Employee). That’s what I put on every tax return and loan application. But I’m still working full time, even more hours than when I was in the Federal workforce. My point was that there may be a lot more people in the workforce than is being reported in the government statistics.

        • SC is right. The measures of employment are simply not measuring economic activity. If you mow your own lawn aren’t you replacing a service worker? In a 70% service economy that’s significant. What if I buy rocks (durable goods) to replace that lawn? In the service economy people often work for free, volunteer, etc. It’s all still economic activity. My neighbor, a retired plumber, does gratis work for seniors and in turn he gives them a Rush Limbaugh spiel. Double service!

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Al Capone had a business card where he stated his profession as “Furniture Dealer” . He actually had a shill storefront in Chicago where he laundered money for his bootlegging and other criminal operations.

  25. DR DOOM says:

    Unemployment is at 4.8%. Wages have blasted off. GDP is >5+. We are loaded with cash and are buying out the store with 73b trade deficit . Wall Street is flush. Markets at all time highs. Housing prices are outta site because we can buy them and pocket the re-fi and then margin our brokerage accounts with puts and calls. Working is kinda optional because the Fed can print all the money we need. Rent and Mortgages can be ignored by Gov’t decree.By every Gov’t metric we are a booming. So why is my behavior the direct opposite of the Gov’t data? Too many nights with Q-Anon? Could it be just a simple gut feeling this shit ain’t right?

  26. Citizen AllenM says:

    LoL, what happens if asset prices fall? Return from stocks craters? Bond prices slump as interest rates rise beyond the control of the Fed.

    So much is predicted to grow to the moon….

    Now what happens if the world disinvestment in the dollar starts?

    Inconceivable, he said!

  27. makruger says:

    Not sure I would want to buy a house or car built during this period of shortages. It’s hard to say what potentially shoddy substitutions were implemented.

    For example, during times of scarcity, aluminum was at one time substituted for copper in house electrical wiring. Naturally this caused some safety issues and future headaches for the homeowners who eventually had to replace the aluminum with copper.

  28. SC stated $15-$17 per hour in Indiana, not Seattle, Washington. A low-wage equivalent job in Seattle would be $5-$10/hour more than that in Indiana. There are many places in Indiana that one can purchase a decent, modest home for under $100k in a safe, blue-collar neighborhood neighborhood.

  29. Random guy 62 says:

    The labor shortage is hitting our manufacturing line hard enough that we (owner/operators) are working in the shop to play catch-up on late orders along with other salaried folks.

    The backlog is huge. Inventory (raw materials and WIP) is at record highs because just can’t get things out the door for a lack of workers. Wages are up by a few dollars per hour from just a few years ago. Bonuses are offered for sign on and referral.

    Some product lines have been intermittently shut down due to parts shortages, but labor has been the primary bottleneck here.

    It’s just weird. We hear the same everywhere from suppliers and customers.

    • TnSkiBum says:

      Long time lurker, first time poster, here.

      John Elkin has isolated the fundamental, underlying problem causing the demise of America: we have abandoned the fundamental ideals of truth and virtue necessary to be a healthy, functioning, free society.

      Virtue is an archaic word one no longer encounters in America. Truth has been deconstructed and devolved into my truth and your truth, thus speaking truth to power (or each other) has no meaning.

      The vast majority of us are no longer able to intelligently reflect, discuss or define the nature and benefits of a virtuous life or the transcendent value to society of our common pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness.

      Because of our collective ignorance and lack of virtue, our greedy, power hunger intelligentsia and power elites are ushering us into fascism while we, like the proverbial frog in the simmering pot, are fixated on the latest iPhone and the size of Kim Kardashian’s butt.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Well said. I wonder what the “fix” is for this dilemma? Or maybe it’s too late?

        • TnSkiBum says:

          I believe the fix is twofold and in this order:

          1. Americans must again collectively recognize and accept that objective truth exists. This is simple and self evident. For instance, it is objectively true that Anthony A made a comment that TnSkiBum has just responded to.

          We can start there and work our way back to more fundamental and important objective truths upon which society can be rebuilt.

          2. Language has meaning. Yes, it is somewhat fluid, but not nearly to the extant that the Left now uses it.

          In the instance of the “Affordable Care Act”, it was not affordable, and they knew it when they named it. And, it did not provide care to all, especially the middle class, because it was unaffordable, and ultimately unattainable for many due to lack of providers.

          It did not cut the average family’s medical insurance cost by $2500, and if we liked our doctor we were not able to keep our doctor. as he/she was not in the network.

          Yet the sheeple continue to believe what the ruling class tells them.

          If, as a society, we can rediscover and collectively agree that there is such a thing as objective truth and relearn our ability to think critically, we can rebuild on this solid foundation.

          If we do not, we will continue our slide into fascism as the sheeple lap up the untrue, propagandistic narratives being spewed by our power elites, the ruling class.

  30. Jon Elkin says:

    Wolf Richter said, ” But you have to lie to accomplish that.”

    Right! Don’t lie. Shit, lying now is a badge of honor. Politicians do it; bureaucrats do it; the FBI and Justice Department does it; University Presidents do it; the media does it; corporations and their boards and officers do it. Yet, you seem to think that some poor handyman cannot or should not do it.

    When the government lies, when previously trusted institutions lie, and all lie at will and rather openly, with no shame or accountability, then every man should (and will) fee free to lie as they need to survive or accomplish whatever it is they are working towards.

    When the elite, the government, institutions, and other supposed foundations of society no longer are trusted to tell the truth, to obey the Constitution, to follow the law, to work for the good of society, then the common man too will free to also evade accountability, and will do so without shame or feelings of guilt… as he well should.

    Our society has turned the corner. It will never return to what earlier generations considered as “normal.” America as we have known it is crashing and burning. It is a big and diverse land; it will not in that sense disappear. However, it has changed, and changed dramatically. What once was considered right and wrong no longer governs. When we see our elite and our leaders ignoring the very strictures which they demand we follow, we lose faith in both them and the system. That faith has been lost, never to return under the present system.

    What will arise from this massive reset, I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. Something will arise, but it won’t be what anyone expects, and it won’t be anything like what it replaces.

    Nothing is forever. Change is constant. What is is not what was and what was never again will be. From top to bottom, we have done this to ourselves. We have made decision, overtly or by default, and now we are paying the consequences.

    AS an old man looking around as what it is we have wrought, I say if you need or want to lie, lie away. It is OK. That it is OK has been vigorously demonstrated by your leaders and most of those around you. The system has justified your past lies, your present lies, and your future lies… as well as establishing your inherent right to lie.

    • drifterprof says:

      “When the government lies, when previously trusted institutions lie, and all lie at will and rather openly, with no shame or accountability…”

      In my teen years in the mid 1960s, I came to believe that the government lied, the “trusted” institutions lied, etc. etc. — so not much difference to me.

      For me, it is on personal interaction level that things really deteriorated. More overt hatred, in-your-face emotional negativity, destruction of a common zeitgeist in which people treated others with some kind of respect. That’s what can make a culture really suck the worst.

      • Robert Hughes says:

        Yes. In my opinion it really got ramped up in 1964. We had been lied to by the Warren Commision to cover up the execution. Now it was time for a massive quantity of legislation by the “govt” to create equality, help people, eliminate poverty, feed the masses and so on. Oh yes and intensify the war in east Asia to make the world safe by feeding the MIC.

    • El Katz says:

      The “lying” is nothing new. People with skills have done “siders” for years and many of them worked for cash which, obviously, goes unreported. Recently, I had a glass company come out and remove some large mirrors from our Master Bath (I won’t call it “main bath” just to p*ss off the WOKE crowd). The quote from the owner was $150 for a receipt. However, if I paid him $40 cash….. Guess which I picked?

      Our original grub stake that we saved when we were young was generated by my working off the books in my spare hours after working in my corporate job. I flipped cars, renovated our houses (and subsequently sold for profits), helped people with home repairs (mostly older neighbors) and generated @ $10K a year in 1980’s money that all went into savings. Had I worked at Bozoburger for those hours, it would have never have approached that amount. You don’t have to be a Wharton graduate to run a small business. Just have a little common sense.

      It’s not a “lie” to keep your mouth shut. You could categorize it as a lie of omission, but if no one asked….. Like the old saying: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”

  31. TenGallonHat says:

    Didn’t read the article or the comments yet (but I did read the title!).

    I quit my job several years ago because of the continual degradation of said employment. $13/hour at a corporate cesspool with ever-increasing demands. Sayonara! Should have done it years prior.

    A b00~mer has been “contracting” me for technical/computer services at $17/hour. After dealing with said boo~mer, I’m ready to re-enter my “retirement”. I don’t think $17/hour would get me back to the workforce.

    Just sayin’.

    I was thinking this over in my head and read the headline. Will read the rest over tea tomorrow…

    P.S. I’ve never taken a dime of unemployment or any “bennies” from this pandemic, so don’t even.

  32. Common $ence says:

    I’m am sooooo tired of listening to “Real” Americans bellyaching about their reduced circumstances. My father worked like a dog for three years to save up enough money to bring his wife and two children to the United States. Neither had an education beyond 5th grade, in fact my mother went to work full time in a garment factory when she was fourteen and didn’t leave until she married at age thirty. They couldn’t fulfil their dream of buying a home until they were in their mid fifties and they never owned a car!
    Nevertheless, we grew up in a beautiful, spotless clean apartment, bought quality used furniture, read everything we could carry home from the library then spent our free time actually talking to each other at the dinner table instead of being glued to a television (nope didn’t own one of those either until my mother had saved up enough to buy a washing machine). We never had credit cards or debt and we learned to live within our means so that the two youngest children could go on to college. We did however have an excellent education at the hands of some very stern nuns and we knew what was important and what wasn’t. Did we make it? Damn straight!!!
    I had a driving license at age sixteen, bought my first used car for $400…money I earned babysitting for bored, rich women who needed some “me” time away from their spoiled, bratty kids …went to high school from 9am until noon then went to my 40 hour a week retail job. College was out of the question, but I managed to insure that my two sons who are now very wealthy men, both earned full scholarships to elite colleges and they still apply the same same common sense training to their children.
    So my advice to you, take all the non food, packaged crap out of your grocery carts, stop splurging on overpriced pizza, pay off your credit cards on which you ran up all that consumer debt, don’t buy another rediculous SUV or monster truck. My car is twenty years old, no power locks or Windows but it runs like a dream and I made it a rule early in life to never buy a vehicle until I actually had the cash in hand.
    By the way….I live in a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood which I own outright and have been able to indulge my passion for travel all over the world while never earning more than $30,000 a year in my entire life. And I have been a single parent caring for my own parents for much of that time.
    So buckle up America…..it’s a bumpy road for those who haven’t learned the real purpose of money is to insure your freedom…..not try to shortchange others.

    • phoenix says:

      Cool story bro. The days of stumbling ass backwards into stability just because you “worked hard” or “were frugal” are over. Yet, fossils come in here and parrot this same bs on a weekly basis. And congratulations on having 2 sons on full scholarships at elite colleges when the total number of applications was probably in the hundreds or thousands. Elite universities are getting tens of thousands of applicants who have perfect scores, grades, and extracurriculars. If you’re not a legacy, have a parent who “donated” millions, or a first-gen african immigrant, youre s.o.l

  33. Swamp Creature says:

    I met a lot of retirees who moved to Florida from NY. They were part year residents of NY having moved in the middle of the year. Many were very wealthy. At the clubhouse once a month they had a party to welcome new arrivals. When they did their tax return for the year many owed NY taxes for the time they were residents of NY. My old man was one of them. He paid the taxes in full. Most didn’t. I heard them tell my old man he was a sucker. And at the welcoming party they openly bragged about stiffing NY for the taxes. One dude even took the tax bill and ripped it up in front of the crowd and got rousing laughter and applause. Need I say more.

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