Hard to Imagine the Labor Market Will Go Back to Pre-Pandemic Dynamics. Too Much Has Changed

People got thrown out of a rut and thought about how to move forward differently. We can see that increasingly in the numbers.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Momentous shifts in the labor market, brought on by the pandemic, are percolating to the surface, with millions of people not joining the labor force, with companies having trouble hiring as people don’t want to be hired under the current conditions, and with people striking out on their own to get out of the rat race and chase after their dream. Side-gigs that were started while working-from-home may have turned into full-time businesses, and these people quit their W-2 jobs – contributing to the record number of “quits” – and are now chasing after their dream, and the creation of tiny businesses has exploded. And wages are surging.

For the second month in a row, households reported large gains in people who are working – including the self-employed and people starting their own businesses. But employers reported that they’d added only a smallish number of employees to their payrolls, which don’t include the self-employed and those striking out on their own.

Hourly wages jumped more than expected. And the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, the lowest since February 2020, when it was 3.5%, which had been the low since the 1950s.

The labor force ticked up only a minuscule amount and remained way below the pre-pandemic trends as many people decided for whatever reason to remain on the sidelines.

The reference period for all this drama is the week around December 12, before the spike in omicron cases, and it’s based on two large-scale surveys, one of households and the other of employers (“establishments”), released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It adds more color to the picture of a labor market that has changed in dramatic ways.

Employers added just 199,000 people to their payrolls, based on surveys for the payroll week that included December 12. Over the past three months, employers added 1.1 million employees. This brought the total number of employees on the payrolls to 148.9 million, still down by 3.6 million from February 2020 and about 8 million below pre-pandemic trend. In other words, employers are now able to hire at the pre-pandemic pace but are not able to catch up.

Households reported that the number of working people, including the self-employed and entrepreneurs, jumped by 651,000 people in the reference week of December 12, and by a massive gain of 2.17 million people over the past three months, bringing the total to 156.0 million people who’re now working. This was still down by 2.8 million from the total in February 2020, and about 7 million workers below trend, but they’re catching up with pre-pandemic trends (red line).

This is the image of the disconnect.

It speaks of people choosing to be self-employed or starting their own thing, from ecommerce retail operations out of the garage to transaction lawyers leaving a law firm to start their own M&A shops out of their house, and taking their clients with them, during the biggest M&A boom the world as ever seen. These folks are tracked by the household surveys, but not the establishment surveys.

The average hourly wage jumped by $0.19 for the month, the biggest increase since April 2021. In the data going back to 2006 until the pandemic, there had never been a $0.19 increase per hour. Year-over-year, the average hourly wage, at $31.31, jumped by 4.7%.

The labor force and “labor shortages.”

The labor force – people who were either already working or who were actively looking for a job in the four weeks prior to the survey of households – ticked up by only 168,000 people in December, which brought the three-month gain to 823,000.

This leaves the labor force down by 2.3 million people from February 2020 and by 5.2 million from trend, while employers were desperately trying to fill an enormous 10.6 million in job openings.

Job openings – based on surveys of HR departments, not online job postings – started to spike above pre-pandemic trends in February 2021, surpassed the 8-million level for the first time in March 2020, surpassed the 10-million level for the first time in June 2021, and have been above 10 million every month since.

This mind-boggling spike in job openings has been going on for 10 months, indicating from another angle just how hard it is for employers to hire people and how reluctant people are, despite higher wages, to take those jobs:

And people feel freer than ever before to quit their jobs to start a new job or a new activity or go rest on their laurels and spend more time with their inflated assets. These “quits” at private-sector employers started spiking in March 2021, hit an all-time record in April 2021, and continued to spike, hitting another record in November:

It’s hard to believe that the labor market would go back to the pre-pandemic normal. Too many things have changed. Some people have massively benefited from the pandemic of asset-price inflation, and it changed how they look at work, and the need to work, including many people who’ve just had enough and retired.

Government stimulus has provided breathing room for other people to reevaluate how they want to move forward. Businesses have changed too. Working from home at least part of the time is now seen as a benefit by employees and as a cost-cutting measure by employers. But working from home allows people to experiment with side gigs and develop new ideas and ease into striking out on their own. The pandemic has thrown people and businesses out of a rut, with some surprising consequences for the labor market.

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  224 comments for “Hard to Imagine the Labor Market Will Go Back to Pre-Pandemic Dynamics. Too Much Has Changed

  1. Kunal says:

    It will take time but things will be back to normal in a few years with everything 1.5x higher – prices and wages. Classic 50% devaluation in currency. FED got the opportunity in Covid to reduce the debt burden and it took full advantage of that.
    Besides Covid nothing has changed in the world much so there is no reason life will not be back to pre pandemic normal. WFH, hobby jobs, early retirement etc are nothing new, they will all fall in place. This also means that stocks that exploded up in Covid will crater back to normal except those that actually expanded a lot in Covid like TSLA. TSLA is doubling their output every year and are already at 1M pa. They are a tech company – will use cars as a platform just like Apple did with iPhone. Good bye GM and Ford.

    • Kunal says:

      Savers were the ultimate losers in all this. Bad for them, specially the older folks out of workforce. The silver lining is that their 401k and SS did get a bump.

      • josap says:

        Some of the SS bump gets taken back in Medicare premiums.

      • perpetual perp says:

        Interesting. Could there be a new dynamic where, if Congress is pumping income down into labor, some are working part time because their after tax income has gone up enough? If I recall correctly the idea of an industrial economy was for the government to assume some business expenses in the form of government subsidies, said subsidies lowering the cost of doing business. Retired folks with SS and Medicare are going to work part time, thus lowering the cost of business?

      • historicus says:

        Savers, earners, workers…..everyone got whacked…to fluff the assets of the upper crust.
        And the younger folk….do they know the ladder is being pulled up from them, and they are also paying for it?
        $20 Trillion increase in national debt, to push stocks and real estate up and away from those young people buying at reasonable levels…..and that debt will be theirs to chew on going forward.
        Huh? What?

        • roddy6667 says:

          I heard some noises about eating cake. Guillotine futures going long. Hmmm. Got my recliner and a lot of popcorn . Let’s see how this one works out.
          Maybe I’ll get rich making book on the whole event.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Where has the debt burden been reduced? Debt has increased by more than national income or GDP since March 2020.

      • Troy says:

        If the debt wasn’t directly reduced, it sure will be easier for the government to raise their tax collections since everyone across the board has increased wages

    • gametv says:

      Disagree with this completely. Inflation cannot be allowed to increase at that rate or it becomes ingrained in psychology and then it cant be stopped. The Fed will be forced to fight it. I actually think inflation will be tamed much faster than anyone thinks, but that it will take a real big downside in asset prices and increases in interest rates to get there.

    • Jon says:

      This is what psychologist call “A recency bias”
      Nuff said.

    • Kril says:

      TSLA makes a pretty shitty car. It’s a great piece of tech but the legacy automakers are catching up every month. Outside of battery tech legacy/charging network legacy automakers have passed them or about to pass them in many fronts. Mercedes is the first automaker to launch a level 3 self driving. Most legacy automakers electric cars are far higher quality cars than Tesla. And when they publish the mileage they hit those or even surpass them. While Tesla never even gets close to those. The cybertruck if it ever even comes out will be a dud. The Lightning looks better and much more practical. And will be much cheaper also. 2022 might be the last year Tesla is the “leader” in the Electric segment.

      • Massbytes says:

        Mercedes “self driving” is limited to 37 MPH on a suitable road. Whoop de do. Most of those other EV makers can’t make enough EVs to successfully challenge Tesla. And Tesla is only operating two manufacturing plants with two more about to open. They will sell all they can make. I am happy the others are now, finally, making EVs but they have a long way to go in catching Tesla.
        With in excess of 1.2 million reservations for the Cybertruck and with its specs I doubt it will be a dud. The top end Ford Lightening is around 90K, right? That doesn’t sound cheaper than a Cybertruck.

      • Rudolf says:

        Clearly you have never owned/driven a Tesla.

      • SwissBrit says:

        Kril – Teslas are awesome cars; pretty much anyone who’s had any experience of them agrees.
        TSLA may (does) have an overblown stock price and a possible charlatan leader, but the product itself is great, even if the truck is ugly as anything.

    • Up north says:

      Many thanks once again for enlightening thoughts Wolf

    • NBay says:

      I’m curious about how unemployment was defined in the 50’s?

      Thanks to unions, corporations kept most of the jobs here. The CEO to avg worker difference was not nearly so extreme, and only (and a lot fewer) some rich people owned stocks.
      I never heard any parents talk about them.

      Also, almost nobody’s wife worked, at least in the mostly WASP middle-class which I grew up in…CA.

      These folks were/are the base of the “pissed-off” party, but why they blame their own government and not the corporations that caused job loss and changed our laws to benefit them, is a real PR coup, to say the VERY least.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        NBay-same, but the general population’s civic/historic memory appears less-than-sharp for over two generations, now… (W.s haunting ‘…we don’t know what we don’t know…’ coupled with the all-too-human tendency to think ‘life, the universe and everything’ began at one’s birth…).

        may we all find a better day.

  2. gametv says:

    We are still in the middle of a very distorted market. People think they are rich because their portfolio is up and their real estate is worth a bunch more. That makes them do stupid things. Many people tried to start businesses, but many of those ventures will fail.

    Interest rates are ready to skyrocket. I see the 30 year mortgage rate at 5% by April. That will kill housing prices in this inflated market. There are many homes that people bought as assets and once they see prices drop, they will want to get out rapidly.

    • SocalJim says:

      If you are unlucky enough to work for a woke corporation, then just quit and retire. Live off your windfall. Woke corporations are so unAmerican
      What is stupid about that?

      • Poor like you says:

        What’s a woke corporation?

        • Jay says:

          Examples: Apple, Google, Coke, Nike, ESPN, NYT, Disney, NFL et al

        • SocalJim says:

          Add GM, Ford, and most sell side and large buy side wall street firms. Google State Street for an example.

        • ivanislav says:

          Why are you asking like you don’t know? Based on your question, I think it’s safe to say: “corporations that espouse your values”.

        • Pea Sea says:

          Whoever Fox News or OAN says is a woke corporation.

        • Billybob says:

          A company that isn’t Trumpian

      • Augustus Frost says:

        Only if you can make the increase in fake wealth permanent by getting out before too many do will this work.

        In other words, very few proportionately because the wealth increase is exactly that, fake. It isn’t the result of increased production. At a national level, trying to live off of asset appreciation is no different than doing so off of government “printing”.

      • phleep says:

        Those corporations have balance sheets, and creditors and owners and customers to answer to, like everybody else. This time the bailout (both political parties) sent cash to plenty of “non-woke” businesses, whatever that refers to, and they seem to have taken the “UnAmerican” cash like anybody else. Consider customers might choose to buy stuff from a business that espouse certain values. All in quite freely choosing “American” market-based ways.

        • phleep says:

          But the “woke” corporate culture (with other team posturing and constraints some personalities may find grating) might be some impetus for some people to move to independence in business. Some will trade a greater amount of security away for freedom. Which does still exists with the classic risks and costs.

      • Up north says:

        Are government employees working for a woke organization? LMAO really hard!

    • Concerned guy says:


      Lot of this is due to BS wealth effect. I have see this with people around me.

      Think a big crash in all assets prices and severe recession (hard landing) will take care of things including inflation.

      • dishonest says:

        Then that had better not be allowed to happen.
        I’m lookin’ at you Jerome.

      • otis says:

        Asset price deflation is needed to mop up the messy excess liquidity created by monetary inflation.

        I have no idea what’s going to happen but the only “reset” I see happening is asset price deflation.

        ROI eventually matters and it will only take a little credit crunch to reveal the necrotic underbelly of our current economic fantasy.

        • perpetual perp says:

          I believe during recessions, the bookkeeping of our nation’s financial plumbing shows a sharp spike in savings. This does not make the asset price deflation less painful, but it does force a serious ‘attitude adjustment’ that carries forward for a generation or more. Unfortunately, if the federal government adopts austerity as a result (reducing the money supply and its velocity) , while the external accounts remain in deficit, it makes it far more difficult to save!

      • sunny129 says:

        Concerned guy

        Big crash is unlikely, but SLOW bleed with occasional sudden gush is more likely. Hopium is still strong that indexes will go back up, some how (may be Fed turning back Dovish again, down the road). I see this in the still significant CALL spread, option call on DIA (DJI index).

        Secular Bear is characterized by lower of the HIGHS and lower of the LOWS! As Wolf has said, Nothing goes straight to bottom. One’s ‘fat’ portfolio is NOT yours until you cash out.

        Many will lose significant part of their gains due to greed and blid faith in Fed, just like in 2000 and 2008! Many newbies in their mid 40s or below have witnessed a secular BEAR in their life time. This will change in the coming years!

        For 2000 Bear, from peak to trough, it took approximately 2.5 yrs. For 2008 (GFC) Bear, it took 18 months but cut short by Trillions sprinkled by Fed, to create everything bubble as a cure to previous bubbles. Now Fed is back at square ONE, again!

    • Jay says:

      Easy, big fella. Most of us want higher rates, but don’t expect 5% 30-year mortgages by April. 3.5 to maybe 3.7%.

      Distorted market – agreed

      Fake wealth – agreed, unless we have a bunch of Karnack the Greats who are going to nail timing the market. But, the drop in the market and asset prices, most likely, will be somewhat gradual over at least several months to a year or more possibly.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        As of today, the average fixed-rate 30-year mortgage is already being quoted at 3.5%. The Feddie Mac figure that was cited yesterday was from a survey most mortgage bankers filled out on Monday. A lot has changed since.

        I’ll have more on that in a little while. This is now fast-moving.

        • SocalJim says:

          Only up 30bps since Oct 2021. Not a big deal.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Agreed, 3.5% is not a big deal, still very low, and going a lot higher. I don’t know at what level it becomes a big deal, but somewhere along the line, it does become a big deal, maybe somewhere above 4% or above 4.25%.

        • SocalJim says:

          Thing about the 10YR TREAS, … when rates rise, fixed rate MTG portfolios take an outsized hit because their durations extend which causes MTG traders take outsized short positions in 10YR futures. So, a chunk of this 10YR backup in yields is technical.

        • Jay says:

          I read it was ~ 3.25% early this week. Yes, it’s fast moving, but I don’t see 5% by April. Approaching 4%, I guess, sure.

          Thanks, Wolf!

        • Kay Martin says:

          I’m a mortgage broker, Silicon Valley
          30 Year Fix | SFR | 30 day lock | rate term refi
          3.25% Conforming limit 647, 200 760 FICO 60% LTV
          3.375% Agency HB limit 970,800 760 FICO 60% LTV

          You are right Wolf, likely more expensive up in the city b/c condo or coop and I’m using SFR (single family residence) IT is changing so fast every day up .125% to .25%. no relief in sight

        • gametv says:

          Wolf- You were the one that pointed out that over the past year, the Treasury has used the 1.7 Trillion in the general account to pay for government deficit and that it went down to almost zero with the debt ceiling issue. That is a bigger distortion of the supply-demand curve than the mere $100 billion the Fed was buying in bonds. Now they have cut the bond buying, but they are also going to be pumping alot of new supply of bonds into the market.

          The interest rates are going to move much faster, much higher than anyone thinks.

          Just want for the days where all asset prices are crashing. That is when reality sets in. The progressives in the democratic party will try to blame it on Biden, but it is the lack of conservative fiscal policies that is going to kill this country.

          The time to buckle in is near.

        • Yort says:

          5% would be a very big deal for mortgages, as it was back in 2018/2019 for a few short months when I actually locked in some 3.1-3.5% 5 year CDs. The same short window could arrive in the next 6-18 months, so keep your finger on the buy buttons…HA

          It won’t be allowed by either govt or the Feds, but a 30 mortgage at 9.25% rate for a $250,000 house is the same payment per month as a 30 year mortgage at 3.00% for a $500,000 house…basic yield repression magic has doubled the prices of homes, so unless they go NIRP, I’m not sure how that continues the previous two decades?

          The Fed seems foolish to believe that raising rates from ZIRP to say 2-2.5% is somehow enough to tame 8-10% Everything Inflation. At some point I suspect they will be forced to raise Fed funds rate to 4-5%, and then start buying bond AND stock ETFs (like Yellen proposed in MSM on Sept 29, 2016) when markets hit the magic 20-30% drop level.

          That way the rich can stay rich, and the poor can stay poor…yet survive just enough to be forced to service rich elites with low paying jobs, and just NOT enough to survive without being controlled by the political elites through financial bribes-for-votes schemes…

      • otis says:

        Pretty telling and hilarious that 7% interest on mortgages means the end of the world as we know it. That rate would crater prices, for naturally depreciating and disintegrating houses, that are primarily based on payments (interest only in CRE), and not ROI or inherent value as a dwelling.

        • phleep says:

          > naturally depreciating and disintegrating houses

          Redevelopment is still hot where I live. Many units go onto every former single house lot. But former office footprint will open up too. There must be a price point where its is profitable, especially with headwinds from government for housing.

      • Gyorgy says:

        Agreed, the Fed always wants a soft landing. This time they might get a tumble.

    • Peanut Gallery says:

      gametv, wow 5% by April? bold prediction.

      You are now on the record my friend ;)

      I was going to give 30 FRM at 5% at least until the fall, but now that you mention it this way, I actually think what you are predicting is definitely within the realm of possibility.

      I think the O/U by April 15th is that rates hover around 4.75%

      • gametv says:

        Peanut Gallery – My thinking is based on Wolf had discussed in his previous articles, but he never really thought about the implications.

        Everyone is fixated on the QE that happened with bond purchases to the tune of $100 billion a month. That was not even the biggest distortion. The bigger distortion was that the Treasury was starving the supply of bonds to the tune of $250 billion a month. It started in Feb 2021 and lasted until about November, and they they sold some in November into December and now they are selling it again.

        Bonds are a function of supply and demand, the same way every market is. So the tightening that is going to happen is not only the reduction of $100 billion of buying, but the increase of $250 in supply. That is a whopping shot.

        And here is what will allow this to move rapidly. With inflation running rampant, the Fed cannot simply start another round of QE. They are forced to allow the markets to adjust.

        So wait and watch for tepid demand at an upcoming Treasury auction. Those are the days when Treasuries will get pounded.

        Also watch for the time when long-term trend lines are broken. That will be when things move real fast. My prediction is that January shows a big upside move, but it is February or March when the interest rates really move. Why? Because the market will initially be able to absorb the extra supply of Treasuries with out medium impact. But with month after month of Treasuries hitting the markets, buyers will be satiated. They wont want more, even at moderately higher rates, they will demand MUCH higher rates.

        5% by April is not even my worst case scenario. What if the next crash is a crash in Treasury prices, as 30 years of interest rate repression gets all unwound, all at once? Not saying it will happen, but it COULD HAPPEN. We are in uncharted territory.

        • PNWGUY says:

          $1.5T held in reverse repo is looking for yield, could tame rates for a while.

        • perpetual perp says:

          Japan has been buying all its debt for more than two decades. Still no inflation.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Inflation is now spreading across the system in Japan. There was a massive push-down on cellphone fees, and that reduced overall inflation. Without cellphone fees, inflation would already be 2%, and it’s rising. Underlying inflation measures (including PPI) are red hot. There is a huge amount of price resistance by Japanese consumers which makes inflation tough to spread, but that resistance is now cracking.

          The Bank of Japan ended money printing in May. They’ve started shedding some of the government bond holdings, instead of increasing them. See my last article on that. They know what’s coming, and nothing and no one in Japan is prepared for inflation, and it will do a lot of damage.

        • Yort says:

          Don’t forget Foreign demand, as 3% year will look awesome for countries at less than 1%, even with the cost of currency hedging.

          Until the USD loses World Reserve Currency status, the Fed can get away with a lot of crazy behavior. And even though there is always a transition from one empire to another throughout all of history, I think the Fed has a few more decades to take advantage of the rest of the world…

    • Enlightened Libertarian says:

      My first home loan in 1986 was 10% . It didn’t stop me from buying a house and 35 years later that house is worth 10 times what I paid for it even though I split the lot and took half the land to build another house next door.
      I sold the old house in 1988 [tax free profit] and the new house I built in 1990.
      I think real estate is far and away the best investment for someone with very little money to invest. After all,you have to live somewhere. Just make sure your first house is an investment and not a home.

      • Augustus Frost says:

        The residential RE price to income ratio is noticeably higher now versus 1986. Mortage rates are noticeably lower and far more likely headed up than down over any extended term. This combination doesn’t add up to anything close to a repeat of the last 35 years.

      • roddy6667 says:

        If you live and work in a time in history when everything went your way long-term, it is easy to see it as a truism that is applicable for all time. I’m a 73 yr old Boomer, and I think most of what I experienced is not going to be available to the younger people. Real estate will still prevail because of leverage. If you put 20% down and your house goes up in value, you keep all the increase, even though you only invested 20% of it. There may be huge booms and busts, though. All I can see is that a person should live beneath his means ansd save, save, save.

        • PNWGUY says:

          Every person on the planet needs to read the first 2 sentences of this comment.

        • Up north says:

          Thank you for some honest boomer out there… We love you all, but your generation saw the best. The generation under 35 now are getting the dry end of the stick… Unless they were dumb enough to luck out on Bitcoin or Dogecoin …

        • coalman says:

          + 1

      • otis says:

        I agree RE is a great cornerstone investment but as a person who grew up in Florid-duh (native Brooklyn born TYVM) I have seen maybe at least ten times that RE has collapsed. I have seen people’s finances and lives ruined. They alsways blame being overleveraged like being overleveraged was something beyond their control.

        Growing up in bubble-duh I knew RE was the way to make money and obviate the need for a bank in my business endeavors. But you better get your timing right.

        People can and will get the timing wrong. It always happens. Then, the tears fall. Real estate is a great long term investment. That’s why it pays to wait until there is a screaming deal. That’s the tell that your timing may be right. No screaming deals anywhere right now.

        The house I sold in The Duh in 2005 on a beach with a salt water canal was later sold in a short sale for 60% less in four years.

        A buyer’s strike in housing could get interesting if the corporate buyers get slapped down with their predominantly interest only balloon loans for whatever reason.

        Anyone who had a mastermind plan to get rich on a corporate I/O balloon loan in four years on essentially no cost, or negative cost money, better have their act together or boom and poof. Most people who had access to that crazy easy money took it.

        Why not?

        Everyone is at the party dancing and swimming under the spectacular Bernanke9000 Robo-Debaser Copter and has been under a shower of filthy cash for so long that they are completely wasted, stupefied watching the Sun rise with the bleary eyes of satiation.

      • gametv says:

        Enlightened – You should understand that times are very different now. Let me expound.

        One – The prices paid in 1986 were a smaller percentage of household income than they are today.
        Two- The long term trend toward 2 income families helped to increase household wealth. That trend is now over and maybe even a little reversed in the last year.
        Three – Real estate is a leverage asset, the only asset that most buyers use 80-90% leverage.
        Four – Lots of properties have been bought by investors, big and small, those people will run for the hills and sell at any price to get out in a descending market.
        Five. Even if you dont use leverage on your house, the price of competitive houses is based on a monthly mortgage payment. When those payments become too much, demand dries up. A home is only worth what someone will pay for it.
        Six. The last year has proven that real estate prices are about psychology as much as anything. When psychology changes, it means big changes fast.
        Seven. The Federal Reserve was able to cut rates and perform QE because there was no inflation in 2008. Now they cant do that. They need to just let the chips fall to bring down runaway inflation.
        Eight. There are housing and debt bubbles around the world that will pop simultaneously and this will cool housing demand EVERYWHERE.

        Alot of people make the wrong assumption that high inflation will mean higher home prices. Wrong! Higher inflation will lead to higher mortgage rates, which will kill housing prices.

        We are starting from a point where

        • Canuckdude says:

          I would say you are bang on for all your reasons. Great analysis.

        • PNWGUY says:

          All true, but short story is:

          Forty years of falling interest rates…

          Caused huge growth in debt, which inflated all asset prices…

          Can’t continue much further… certainly can’t be repeated

        • perpetual perp says:

          “When those payments become too much, demand dries up. A home is only worth what someone will pay for it.” Put a little differently, a loan is only worth the value of its collateral. Eighty percent of all bank loans are for property. Ready for another ‘bailout?’

        • Flea says:

          Fantastic analysis but everything is in bubble territory nowhere to ,nowhere to hide also applies to politicians and fed

      • georgist says:

        The above post really says everything about the comprehension of the boomer generation, free money and falling interest rates.

        Just incredible someone would say “I bought when rates were 10%, they went down to 3% and my land increased in price. Rates are 3% today and I recommend other people buy”.

    • Swamp Creature says:


      A lot of these dudes who quit the workforce to sit home and trade Bitcoin , NFT’s and buy Puts & Calls and all that bull s$it are going to be (SOL) s$it out of luck when this market crashes and they find their sorry a$ses in a soup line begging for a hot meal. If I was an employer I would look at the gaps in their resume and ask them WTF they were doing for 2 years, while honest working folks were busting the a$ses working in this pandemic and paying taxes. Frankly, I wouldn’t hire them to clean the s$it off my front lawn.

      • David Greene says:

        You do realize that working people have kids to take care of and aging parents to take care of, all happening in a pandemic, correct? I have three kids and it’s been hell finding childcare, and hell hauling my kids to get covid tests every other week because they are always sick. Good thing you aren’t my employer.

        • Root Farmer says:

          David Greene,

          There is a lot of chest-thumping in these comment sections. I wouldn’t pay it any mind. Usually the most contemptuous remarks fall from broken records, repeating their screed against their fellow citizens, ad nauseum.

          As an employer, I am extremely distressed by what you are speaking to. Quality employees who cannot continue with us due to lack of access to childcare, or housing, or health care (CARE not insurance!). And then told that their situation is mostly a moral failing on their part.

          We get “criminal fed, lazy Americans, …,” non-stop from some commenters. But they are after all, just comments that can be skipped over. There are enough quality insights that make wading through the disappointing (and repetitive) ones worthwhile.

          And then there is the value that Wolf brings! A beacon of reason, that one. He deploys repetition as a means to elucidate complex topics for those of us who have not dedicated our lives to the study of markets. He also refuses to punch down but rather, to develop insight into the choices that we are all making. As I’ve said before, I truly appreciate Wolf’s compass.

          Good luck with the children and finding care, David. It is a difficult slog right now. I, and many others, are rooting for you and yours.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          David Greene

          You didn’t even read my post. I was talking about people who quit working so they can make more money trading Bitcoin, NFTs’s etc. A lot of essential workers have been forced to work 6 or 7 days a week, at long hours since this pandemic started. They have made sacrifices too.

      • Island Teal says:


    • Crush the Peasants! says:

      If wages also increase in parallel with the rising monthly mortgage payment, home prices may not crash. RE prices may continue to increase in 2022 and beyond.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        “If wages also increase in parallel with the rising monthly mortgage payment,…”

        Home prices went up 20% over the past 12 months, and now mortgage rates are surging, and wages went up only 4.5% over the past 12 months? is that what you mean?

        • Crush the Peasants! says:

          Two income family is 2×4.5% = 9%.

          So if prior to the 9% bump, your family could only cover a $1,424.47 monthly mortgage payment on the $400,000 rambler (30 year mortgage, 3.43%), now you can afford the $1552.67 mortgage payment on a $436,000 rambler. The 30 year rate would have to increase to 4.0% for the wage increase to be absorbed by the rising payment, causing you to essentially tread water at the $400,000 price point, in spite of the wage increase. Can that happen? Sure. Stay tuned.

          The reality you have described demonstrates a 20%/9% = 2.22 home price increase to wage increase multiplier. How is this possible? A few ideas, but the simple example of a two earner family above demonstrates that with rising wages, a rising mortgage pament may be handled. And so RE prices can increase in 2022, remain flat, or even go down. We’ll see.

        • gametv says:

          Crush the Peanuts – You dont understand percentages. If both incomes in a 2 family household go up by 4.5%, then the total goes up by 4.5%, not 9%.

        • Depth Charge says:

          Right. Not only does the household income only go up 4.5%, but everything else not including house prices is going up, eating into discretionary income. Crush The Peasants’ math and logic are fuzzy at best.


      Spot on.

  3. Trucker guy says:

    I’m stunned that the average hourly wage is 31.31 dollars an hour.

    I wonder how that’s figured. If it is only hourly workers or hourly and salary. If that is what Johnny lunch bucket is averaging I need to find an average job. 25/hr to run America’s most dangerous highways and do back breaking labor is bullshit if I can twiddle my thumbs at a reception desk and pull the same or more.

    Maybe it’s time to look through indeed. Let the 18-21 year olds who are about to be allowed to be interstate truckers and CDL holders take the reigns. Or more likely, the ditches.

    • Hal says:

      Trucker guy, the average is skewed higher than the median (which is a more realistic figure when comparing to your own pay). I would guess the median to be very near $25/hr (any idea WOLF?). That places you above half of the wage earners out there. So, hey… the glass is half full!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Trucker guy,

      Hourly wages = wages and salaries, but doesn’t include other forms of compensation.

      Many highly compensated employees make more money from stock-based compensation and bonuses, than from salaries, but that is not included here.

      But don’t get hung up on the $ figure. What is important is the INCREASE. That’s why this figure is cited.

    • Flea says:

      Won’t last long ,one trip thru mountains in winter ,kill to many people because of lack of experience government are idiots ,most 18 year olds can’t drive a car properly,now we’re going to give them a 80,000 pound truck stay on 2 lanes safer maybe

    • Lynn says:

      It isn’t “average”. It’s AN average. The term average is misleading and includes those making a great deal per hour. Just like average income isn’t what the majority make- included in those figures are those of multimillionaires. It does not include those making nothing or retired on SSI etc.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Right. If you have a CEO grossing $5 million per year, and 4 other households grossing $50,000 per year, average income = $1,040,000. Average is misleading.

        • perpetual perp says:

          If you have an auditorium of 5,000 men who earn, on average, $70,000 per year, you have one measurement. When Jeff Bezos walks in, the ‘average’ becomes meaningless.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          perpetual perp,

          BS. From 1998 to 2021, Bezos earned a base salary of $88,840 a year. So now figure your average.

          You’re confusing “hourly wages and salaries” with wealth from capital and bonuses. How many times do I have to repeat this here that income/wealth from capital and bonuses is NOT included in “wages and salaries?” But that’s where wealthy people make most of their money.

        • Flea says:

          Apple ceo 98 million ridiculous there board of directors are idiots, oh forgot there stealing too

    • Cobalt Programmer says:

      I wont usually reply to comments (Being a famous commenter) but I reflect Hal’s sentiments. If average also include Bill Gates, then you get $31, we need to look at median salary. Median Household income would be better. Also, as Wolf pointed out, total compensation is the essence because, salary can be part time with or without other benefits such as retirement and medical. In general, people hate statistics…

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Bill Gates did not get rich from his salary. Nor did Buffett. They made their money through capital appreciation. This measure is hourly wages and salaries. It doesn’t even include bonus or stock options and other stuff.

        • JeffD says:

          Well, sort of. It actually does matter because people making median wages can afford the 20% home price increase (much) less than the average worker who only had a 4.5% wage increase, even if the median worker had a 25% wage increase. I think that is what people are getting at.

        • JeffD says:

          … and I replied to the wrong comment, of course.

      • Up north says:

        Wolf, is Cobalt imagining those prizes or are they true? What are the criteria to apply? : )

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      “Maybe it’s time to look through indeed. ”

      Even if I am not looking for a job, I am always looking at indeed. It’s good to keep tabs on my field in my local area. To see how many jobs are out there, and what companies are looking for people, yada yada yada.

    • David Hall says:

      The median hourly wage for all workers in 2021 was about $22/hr – Pew Research. Half of workers were paid more, the other half were paid less.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        It doesn’t matter here. WHAT MATTERS IS THE INCREASE.

        • economicminor says:

          I have to wonder about the way they figure that too! Sounds rather high when I actually don’t know anyone who got an increase in hourly wages.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I know lots of people who got increases. Big increases. I know people who quit and took a better job with much higher pay. That too plays into the increase of the average wage. If you didn’t get an increase, go look for a better job. Don’t just sit there.

          The only exception is tech people who got aged out. They can’t find a job in tech. So they don’t work, and they count as retirees, and don’t figure into the wage increase data.

        • Gabby Cat says:

          Is the increase averaged over the entire US? I know many in the Midwest that received well below 3% in raises this year. Many work in a Government Think Tank near me and the company is hoarding major profits. This is squeezing the household belt very tight and forcing other members into the labor market for living expenses. Are they seeing something we are not privy to? This is a nonprofit organization.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Gabby Cat,

          This is why the quits rate is sky high. People are tired of this crap and walk out and get a better job, as they should. People have had it.

          This is why the average pay is going up: people are quitting and getting a job that pays more. Then the employer that now has the vacancy to fill has to offer higher pay in order to fill it.

          If you just sit on your butt and keep working and keep your mouth shut, you might never get a raise; you’re going to be abused until your last day.

        • Shells says:

          But just examining the increase allow for salary size comparisons

        • Shells says:

          *But just looking at the increase doesnt allow for salary size comparisons*

        • Yort says:

          Ok, I’m really confused now. I’ve always heard that the SIZE doesn’t matter, only how you use it…

        • 728huey says:

          Actually, I was laid off from a job with a base salary of $15/HR plus incentives that bumped my pay to about $18/hr. It took me about six months to find another job, but it’s currently paying me $23/hr, so yes, there has been a huge increase in some wages, which is why a lot of people are quitting their current jobs.

  4. OutWest says:

    Who wants to work directly with the american public on a daily basis if they can avoid it?

    I used to enjoy working in the restaurant and bar scene a few decades ago because people were typically civil and decent. Not so much now days.

    Now, your health and safety is on the line as the average american is far more volatile and considering covid, contagious. Not to mention the fact that the average thief and pissed off jerk is packing heat. No thanks. I’m happy to be self employed and able to select my customers.

  5. Jay says:

    Wolf, “It’s hard to believe that the labor market would go back to the pre-pandemic normal. Too many things have changed.”

    I can easily imagine the labor market doing a 180, when the next asset implosion driven recession hits. Oh yeah! It will sort out the real jobs from the fake ones as well as fake assets like Bitcoin.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, we’ve seen some of that in the bust of 2000-2002, with people clamoring to get their day jobs back when their dotcom portfolio got wiped out.

      • Jay says:

        So, on a side note. If the SCOTUS rules against Biden’s vaccine mandate. Are companies going to be required to re-hire fired employees and give them back pay?

        Just wondering. I know it’s off topic, but it does make for an interesting “what if”.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          No. That’s not what the case is about. The case is about whether or not the government can force companies to mandate things like vaccinations.

          This case is not about whether a company has a right to fire employees for whatever reason.

          This case is not about whether a company can make it part of the job requirements to wear a safety helmet or safety boots or a uniform or getting a CDL or a vaccine. Employers have a lot of leeway as long as they comply with the minimum government regulations. It’s the government regulations that are before the SCOTUS.

        • otis says:

          Not in a right to work state. In these an employee can be fired for any reason (unless they are a “protected class”, then it gets harder.) I think it’s like 28 states.

      • will says:

        Although, unlike the dot.bust, a lot of the people who have left the market this go-around are people who were putting off retirement but then finally took the plunge during covid and stopped working.

        I think about all of those labor force demographic articles I’ve read over the past 10 years whereby the working population really shifted ever more older.

        The other story that’s largely untold (the elderly quitting has been mentioned at least in some of my readings) is the vacancies in all of the “fake” jobs. I call them this because there are a lot of marginal jobs around that no one would consider real employment. Before covid there were a fair number of workforce participants who took various “jobs” simply for something to do. A lot of these had to do with education (because people enjoy being around kids): school bus drivers, school aides, school chaperones, etc. A lot of these people were older and otherwise retired. Covid really changed (permanently?) the calculation for a lot of these folks and made doing these tasks a bad/risky deal. And now that these tasks that people were doing for basically free (ie minimum wage for a few hours each day) need to be offered up as actual jobs that compete with other employers/offers…. Well, there are a lot of shortages in some of these areas.

        These are a couple of the dynamics where I could definitely see a strong argument for “permanent” changes to the labor force, because these types of demographic choices are simply very difficult to reverse.

        I also wonder how many people have quit their jobs to be real estate agents. I feel like this is a trend every time there’s a RE bonanza..

        The next equity/paper/bubble shake-out will be interesting for sure – they always are..

        • RockHard says:

          “marginal jobs around that no one would consider real employment” Anyone who says they’re not “real” jobs never tried to drive a bus full of other people’s brats around. Sounds pretty damn real to me, I sure wouldn’t sign up to do it. The problem is that we treat these jobs as if they’re not worth anything. Lots of people rely on the bus to get their kids to school, but they don’t want to pay for it.

          Economics is a bitch when fair market pricing comes into play. We give all kinds of lip service to “I believe the children are the future” but when push comes to shove the US public is more like Whitney Houston on her worst days.

        • will says:


          I don’t think you got the gist of my argument. They’re not “real” jobs because people do not do them because they need a job. They do them because they (in this particular example) like kids and want something to do. It’s not that what they’re doing isn’t “real” but rather that it isn’t a “job” in the traditional context of our society.

          When I was younger most of the bus drivers (for example) were old farmers. They didn’t need the money. They had CDL’s. They were no longer taking care of families. And they also didn’t have a lot to do in the winter. So they’d do the school bus thing because it gave them something to do and it made them happy. Not because they needed a “job” (for example, if they needed a job they could’ve just been a diesel mechanic in town or something – but who’d do that for fun?).

          My point was that a lot of hobbies (for lack of a better word) masquerading as “jobs” had the calculus for doing them overturned by covid. And now that those hobbies need to be replaced as “jobs” the economics of having those social functions done have also been overturned.

          I mentioned school-related stuff because I thought it was something that people could relate to – like those old ladies who were overseeing recess didn’t need a “job”, it was about something else. But there are a lot of people around that, for example, fix up old bikes as a hobby and sell them on CL for $20 or whatever. They perform social functions and trying to replace them with paid work is difficult, and the labor force dynamics of this are difficult to capture.


      • David in Texas says:

        I still remember an E-Trade commercial from that era. A cubicle drone sitting at his desk looks at his stock skyrocketing, jumps up, runs down the hall, and tells his boss to kiss his backside. When he goes back to his cubicle to collect his personal items, he sees that his stock has plummeted back to its original level. Uh-oh.

        “Don’t get carried away,” said the ad.

        A good lesson for people watching today’s ads telling them to invest in Crypto IRAs. I think they’ll end up like the projectile-vomiting E-Trade baby parody.

    • Flea says:

      There was a labor shortage before virus ,trucking,construction,2 examples quit acting like this is something new people are pissed about ceo pay management pay and perks

    • Depth Charge says:

      So can I. I remember an electrician who was quite humbled during the last housing bust, and was barely scraping by on a part time job at Sportsman’s Warehouse. I think those days are going to be coming back, because absolutely nothing has been fixed since the last meltdown, and things are actually much, much worse in terms of pricing and leverage.

  6. 2banana says:

    Striking out on your own or early retirement = not dealing with the woked silliness in corporate America and the even more sharpy thing silliness

    Hard to imagine corporations eliminating and rejecting at least 50% of their workforce and potential customers in any other time in American corporate history.

    But here we are.

    The reaction is totally understandable.

  7. Seneca's Cliff says:

    I remember back in 1999-2000 all the people leaving real jobs to retire or do hobby jobs like making guitars. If you had a few bucks the market was giving you such good returns is seemed like it was easier not to work the daily grind. The the dot-com bust happened and most of them were back ready to work, if they could find a job.

    • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

      People that worked at Cisco are still salty 20+ years later. All those paper millionaires. How 20 years changes things. Well sometimes not

  8. Truckman says:

    Being as I have a snowstorm outside, I’ve been skyping around the World. Niece in Australia has moved house (literally) from the big city to the sticks. Partner is still working but she’s quit and is now homeschooling her two boys. Cousin in Canada is cherry-picking his assignments, working less, and they can’t risk losing him. School Principal friend in the UK just decided she is going to retire early, and reckons there will be riots in the UK by April if the fuel prices keep rising. She’s an historian, and so she recognises the signs. Sister has quit her big firm and now works for a long-time friend in a small business with a lot less pressure. Brother still not returning to his taxi business, and is continuing to expand his work-from-home cash mechanic business.
    So, that’s the labor situation with my friends and relatives, worldwide And all of them were on ‘standard’ career paths 3 years ago.

    • curiouscat says:

      Home schooling… brings to mind a variable I see very seldom mentioned which is the cost of child care and the number of child care facilities. A person in a two parent family who is working at a minimum wage job may decide to stay home and take care of the kids (just like the old day) rather than see much of their income from a minimum wage job go to child care. I wonder about the size of that effect.

      • Tom21 says:

        30 years tied to rural construction, and existing homes.
        Home Schooling as been huge in the city folks moving to rural.
        Rural broadband rollout in most of the counties I work in has made it
        possible for these young families.

      • otis says:

        Move to Portland poor. Portlanders voted in free preschool financed by a 1.5% income tax (ratcheting up to 2.2%) to finance it.

        Yes, income taxes for finger painting and farty nap time.

    • ivanislav says:

      “reckons there will be riots in the UK by April if the fuel prices keep rising”

      It’s almost like we should establish new sustainable energy systems before getting rid of the old ones. Nah, that can’t be it.

      • Anthony A. says:

        I hear in the U.K. they are converting coal into electricity. /s

      • Truckman says:

        Ah, now I know a lot more about this than the average bear. I used to know the guy who ran the entire British Nuclear Fuels training program, have a very old friend who commissions reactors, plus a former colleague who used to run a major UK power station. I’ve also got two relevant degrees.
        In short, the UK invented nuclear power stations and, after 40 years of not listening to a single person who knows anything about physics, engineering or power, the UK Government now finds it has to get the French and Chinese to build a new nuclear station. They approved 8, but have started only one. The costs have risen from 20 bn to 73 bn pounds, it’s 8 years behind schedule, and will likely never be built. Nor can they even fix the problem in the future. Less than half the school classes in physics in the UK have a teacher in front of them who is qualified in either physics or engineering – and that at A level, never mind a degree. It would take 20 years to fix even if it were the Government’s top priority, assuming all the quality people hadn’t retired early or emigrated. Except, we have.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          You might enjoy this article re Rolls Royce’s application for a SMR Truckman.


          Other CO applying for similar to be built in Idaho just turned down for insufficient information…
          Both concepts seem a TON more promising than the current conventional nuke design(s).

        • ivanislav says:

          Seems about right. Hopefully our AI replacements do a better job with this world.

        • Truckman says:

          Thanks Vintage,
          for your info the RR design is basically their nuclear sub reactor (the one my friend commissions) plus RR turbines, packaged for land use. They’ve probably ‘borrowed’ some ideas off the USN S9G reactor, which they got in return for some UK propulsion designs.
          The good news is that the reactors are sealed units that run for 25 years on one fueling. This massively reduces running costs and environmental hazards. Plus, they can be built in the UK. In 25 years though, you have a big disposal problem.
          But that’s someone else’s problem ;)

    • Dave Kunkel says:

      I just went to the Wells Fargo branch near my house this morning which had a sign on the door that said, “Temporarily Closed.” I then went to another branch farther away that was open. I asked the teller what was going on at the other branch. She said, “They have a staff shortage. Apparently they can find enough people willing to work for what they’re willing to pay.

      This is in Santa Clara, Ca

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Dave Kunkel,

        There are two big issues coming together: as you said, short-staffed (due to difficulty finding employees); and self-isolation due to omicron of employees that you do have. If infected, even if you have no symptoms, you have to self-isolate and cannot go to work. This is hitting already short-staffed businesses from airliners to restaurants very hard. It’s a huge mess for businesses.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        Dave Kunkel

        I’ve been doing nearly all my banking with Wells Fargo since 2009 when they bought out the accounts from bankrupt Wychovia which I was a customer. I have completely lost all confidence in Wells Fargo (reasons too numerous to mention). It has become a criminal organization masquerading as financial institution. I will be liquidating my accounts with them and moving all my business to my local credit union, which I fortunately have kept open since the early 1980’s. I’m done with large commercial banks. They are all crooks. That includes Citi, JPM/Chase, BOA. All of their CEO’s should be arrested and locked up.

    • Up north says:

      Thanks for that truckman. I come here for these types of comments.

  9. Mike says:

    My company is “woke” and just fired a bunch of remote workers for not being mandatory vaxxed in accordance with the new company policy. Then add in the other dozen or so staff that retired to add to the great resignation. Those of us left now are working twice as hard as before and saying WTF maybe we should retire early too!

    Forget about trying to hire anyone our career job vacancy page is now pages long.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      Mike, it might be that your company is getting rid of the “Dead Wood”.
      This situation just may make YOU more valuable.

      • 2banana says:

        That’s not how you get rid of “deadwood.”

        Typically, that is extremely targeted.

        • Prophet says:

          The most efficient way to rid the company of the “deadwood” is promote them into managerial positions.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Why would they fire remote workers is they were not vaccinated? As long as they sty away from the main office, who cares?

      Like Harvey stated, they may have been “non-essential (i.e, dead wood)” and the vac stuff was the justification.

      • otis says:

        Never let a good excuse go to waste

      • Mike says:

        Nope all our deadwood is gone we are burning through green wood now. But mandatory deadline to return to work was 1/4/22… now delayed to 2/1/22 due to latest outbreak.

      • Truckman says:

        Anthony, you appear to be applying logic to the situation, and frankly you should know better by now.
        Remember, ‘1984’ is a training manual, not a dystopian novel.

    • fajensen says:

      Look at it from their perspective: They sack a bunch, then another bunch of folks are doing them a favour and leaving, and now everyone left are working “twice as hard”!

      Just by sacking a few negative nellies, they get Double the work for less money. Obviously, their policies are working and more will be applied.

  10. Hoss says:

    I am POA board member of small community in CO. Sold big house in DFW and am trying to permanently relocate to CO. What I am seeing in this small community is people increasingly move to their “summer home” permanently and work out of this community with high speed Internet service and less strain of being in Dallas, Houston, Denver. Several now have 2nd homes, mainly townhomes or condos or apartments, in their former big cities where they were once identified as full time.

  11. Sams says:

    Any data on how many that are not in the official workforce, but have entered the informal workforce?

    As an advertisiment stated, we paint your house black. Also in other colours…

  12. This has all the look of the ‘tune in, turn on, drop out era.’ Just to clarify McLuhan wrote a book, “The Executive as Drop Out.” A good business school read, written in 72′. Look at Wolf’s bio..

    • otis says:

      A good primer on McCluhan is “The Medium is the Massage” available as PDF online somewhere.

      Our technology is just an extension of our senses, he says.

      I would append that and say that technology is also an extension of our emotions.

      Just check out all the active twitter witch hunts and cancelling campaigns. Those things, social media, they are just an extension of emotions, like hate and envy, and are as easily manipulated as it would take to fake up some kittens drowning or Baxter getting kicked out the window by the Bad Bad man

  13. WES says:

    Here is what puzzles me. The quits are running about 4 million while about 2 million are doing something, like starting a business, per household survey.

    That leaves about 2 million. Officially about 0.2 million were hired. That still leaves 1.8 million not accounted for. Somehow I don’t think this is a good sign.

    With inflation some workers are quitting their present job to obtain a immediate pay increase at another job. Officially 0.2 million did so.

    With 10 million job openings, only 0.2 million are officially hired.

    I simply can’t wrap my mind around this discrepancy.

    Something isn’t right. Either we have a booming economy or we have something else.

    • Bead says:

      Booming revolving credit! Nice to imagine we’re in paradise but the whip will come out again. No question stimmies made the corn pop.

    • Lynn says:

      The stats on homelessness are all over the place and probably highly inaccurate. LA didn’t do a full count last year because of Covid, and at any rate they always miss a lot of people. There’s a lot we don’t know. But with lower waged people moving out of areas when they can’t afford shelter on local wages… IDK. What are they doing? Where are they going? There doesn’t seem to be any data on that.

      Here in far northern Ca. I see people from the south moving north then moving to Oregon, then IDK where they go. Oregon is getting expensive as well.

      • Red says:

        The people priced out of Portland move to Idaho. The people priced out of Hawaii move to Las Vegas and southern California. The people priced out of southern Ca move inland, to a hotter cheaper area. Example a person living within 10 miles of the beach would move to Murrieta Ca. The people priced out of Murrieta Ca move even farther inland to Ontario Ca or Deseret Hot Springs.

        • Lynn says:

          “Ontario Ca or Deseret Hot Springs.” Oh, is that slab city? No work there..

      • David Hall says:

        Look for the states with the fastest growing populations. They may have cheaper housing than Hawaii, Manhattan or Silicon Valley. My county has been seeing about 2% annual population growth. There are streets full of vacant lots, retirees and winter tourism. There are cattle pastures and shopping centers, but no technology office parks. In some of these areas hospitals are the largest private employer.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      Part of the discrepancy you are noticing might be due to an increase in “Under the Table” jobs.

    • Masked Ghost says:

      Wes. A lot of elderly (66+) people here who were working part time have gone full retired. Just not worth it having to deal with cranky maskholes and other plague rats.

      • otis says:

        I went full retarded instead. So much easier admitting I’ll never understand.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Most of the quits are quitting because they got a better job offer from another company. High quits is a sign of churn with employers aggressively poaching workers from each other with higher offers.

      • WES says:

        Then shouldn’t the official hires of 0.2 million be more like 2 million to reflect this churn?

        It looks like 1.8 million people have simply disappeared!

        • Petunia says:

          The workers didn’t disappear, they were disappeared by the mandate. These fired workers are deemed fired for cause, because they no longer have rights, and don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. There are thousands in the healthcare industry, govt, and elsewhere who have been sent packing. If they could get jobs elsewhere or retire they did, but most won’t be hired in similar jobs, for the same reason.

        • Harvey Mushman says:


          The annual increase in retired baby boomers from 2019 – 2020 was 3.2 million. The source is PEW RESEARCH CENTER. They don’t have the data yet for 2021.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          You’re mixing everything up because you want to spin your own yarn.

          NO, 200,000 were not officially hired. That was the INCREASE in W-2 workers. Many more were hired, because many more quit, were fired, and were laid off.

          According to the separate JOLTS report for November:

          6.3 million were officially hired
          4.3 million quit voluntarily.
          Plus, many workers were fired or laid off — those are not included in the quits. Quits are voluntary.

          But that is a different report for a different month (November) than the jobs report today (for December). So don’t expect the numbers between the two reports to perfectly match.

        • WES says:

          Well it is nice to know that 1.8 million workers didn’t just disappear! Hopefully with new jobs they are happier too!

        • SwstSC says:


          Can you explain the huge discrepancy between “openings” claimed by JOLTS (10 million or so) and the much, much smaller number of actual hires reported by the CES (200k or so…2% of the larger figure).

          How do these figures reconcile over time? Do they?

        • Wolf Richter says:


          The jobs report (CES) didn’t report 200,000 “actual hires.” WES made that up. It reported an INCREASE of 200,000 W-2 payrolls. This means: total hires – (quits + fires + layoffs) = 200,000. HUGE difference. So your whole question is wrong.

          It would be helpful to read the article, which explains this stuff.

    • The Real Tony says:

      It’s simple when interest rates are set to rise the jobs number always comes in below estimates each month. They just dream up the figures. That will never ever change.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      WES just make that up instead of looking at the data I provided, and he didn’t think it through at all, not even for one second, and so it was a BS question. Quit responding to it (your response is nonsense too because a large portion of those who died early on were people who’d stopped working years ago). READ MY EXPLANATIONS above.

      Holy moly, how often do I have to repeat this here?

  14. Michael Engel says:

    1) The poor starve, the rich thrive.
    2) The Fed turtle pace rates fight COLA and chew up US gov debt.
    3) The trend is down, US gov trim it’s labor force.
    4) SPX & RE trends are up, US gov collect more taxes. US gov consumption down from $3.39T to $3.38T. Xristalina Georgieva IMF for higher taxes.
    5) US gov debt is down from $28.53T to $28.4T, nominally.
    6) Real personal consumption is rising, while Real Disposable Personal
    Income is down from $19T to $15.3T.
    7) In the next recession, – to convince transitory joe Manchin, shredding debt, – the unemployed and those already on gov support will suffer the most, in stagflation.

    • ru82 says:

      I agree Roddy. Rates do matter some but if there is liquidity and money to buy real estate, people will continue to buy a home. If rates go up they will just buy a smaller house but they will choose not to live in the street. The government now knows how to put hundreds or thousands of dollars into people bank accounts instantly. I am wondering if we will ever have another recession. If we do it will be brief?

  15. otis says:

    I can’t convince myself that a survey of HR ladies about their perpetually posted job listings is remotely accurate. It’s a survey about job openings, right? Does not that imply a concomitant job posting in most cases?

    Have a look on indeed to see all these great new employment opportunities /s. Vast majority seem to be for $14-18 per hour or have very unrealistic education and experience expectations or insinuate they don’t want white men by overly emphasizing how they’d love to hear from POC/LBGTQ and women and are super duper inclusive.

    Average people can barely subsist on the wages and salaries being offered.

    I can’t imagine ever working anywhere that even had an HR department. It’s like ignoring the blue hairs in the dating pool. Not going there.

    • Bead says:

      HR is handy when arranging your paid leave. So the HR crew are not always goons. Vax police now, of course

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Indeed reported 12 million job openings, higher than the BLS survey.

      A company knows what openings it has that it wants to fill. We need two waiters. We need a VP of consumer lending. We need a heavy line tech. We need 6 cashiers. We 12 delivery drivers. This is not rocket science but the bread and butter of what managers do.

      The BLS surveys go out to work locations by address. So a survey goes to an Amazon warehouse, one of the managers there has to deal with it, not Bezos, and not some central office at Amazon. That warehouse might have 10 job openings of different kinds. They know exactly what kinds of jobs they need to fill.

      When my corporation — the infamous Wolf Street media mogul empire — got contacted for this type of survey, the HR department was me, and I said that I had no job openings because I had no job openings. It’s really not that hard to get this right.

      • otis says:

        I was likewise “Head of HR (lol)” for most of my adult life. Eventually my company got big enough that HR “concerns” occurred. In my opinion they occurred due to people (I stupidly hired) trying to force an outside culture on my warehouse that was unrelated to what we were making and who we were.

        I could have been more clear in my earlier comment but it’s Friday. I was asserting that a lot of the listings, and concomitant reported “openings” are for jobs where the company wants someone better, not an additional person. That makes the most sense to me.

  16. raxadian says:

    What when Government stimulus ends? Because nothing lasts forever.

  17. MonkeyBusiness says:

    People are coasting on their crypto, stock market and housing gains. If those drop by 50%, you’ll see lines of job seekers in every city pronto.

  18. DR DOOM says:

    I pay a guy $250 bucks for a 1 1/2 cord of locust and hickory split firewood for smoking shoulders and my wood stove for the house. I pay him $30 an hour to stack the new and re-stack and rotate anything over 4 years old on the bottom of the racks. He showed up with a new F150 4×4 in October and new trailer. Nice rig. He paid cash for rig. His wife is a 2nd grade teacher. He is all cash ,all day. Cleans my gutters for an extra $50 . My ladder and I work the hose on the ground. I can’t see without glasses to weld as I could 10 years ago. I paid him $40 an hour to cut out and patch 3in sch 40 steel pipe roof supports for my shed. He used my welder, side grinder/cut-off wheel and porta-band saw. He got the pipe. I played gopher,used the grinder and kept the 2×4 stud Jack wedge hammered tight under roof. Normal construction shit on a job site. He took $750 when it all was done and a couple trips during the week. He has a selected gaggle of clients like me who trust him not to f $&k stuff up and have the time and know how to use him. If you are willing to work and learn you do not have to kiss the corporate ring. All the stuff He does for me however requires an industrial / manufacturing base to support it. This is starting to break down in so many subtle ways that are now becoming more noticeable. You can re-invent yourself but you need to have the parts. This is going to be a growing problem and Gov’t does not give a rats ass about it.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      DrD-trace directly back to the ’90’s when the best&brightest determined the country would no longer worry about any serious concentration on our industrial economic base (MIC excepted, and not even that, really), but rather on ‘banking’, information tech and ‘services’, financial and personal…

      Gov’t (in the end, ‘we’ – too many of our fellow citizens) now don’t appear to give a rats-a because to too many of them your astute observation is in an essentially foreign language… (…that widespread and wretched ‘who knew?’, again…).

      may we all find a better day.

      • drifterprof says:

        The export of information tech, financial management services, etc. was supposed to help United States’ decades long horror show of negative trade balances. But as Wolf’s data has shown, that didn’t work out well.

  19. Michael Engel says:

    1) Before Weimar there is Turkey. Turkey poor, Erdogan supporters,
    are hooked on gov support. Turkey is a welfare state, run by a totalitarian from his new $1B palace, built after Turkey Jan 6 “event”.
    2) Erdogan pay the poor and the unemployed with deflating currency.
    3) Turkey labor force is more competitive. Turkey established itself as mighty industrial country, bartering oil with Iran and Kurds, selling at retail prices to friends & foes, for foreign currencies, claiming with tears in his eyes that oil prices cause inflation. .
    4) Turkey large modern army cost less to run. The soldiers are poor, secret police and young generals thrive. The old generals, his opponents, rot in jail.
    5) Turkey exporters park 25% of their fx in the gov coffer.
    6) Turkey bought S400 and nuke plants from Putin, blaming US for
    stirring troubles.
    7) Erdogan blame Germany, collecting money to stop the refugees tsunami, but Israel is his most beloved target.

    • drifterprof says:

      1) Erdogan is new phenomenon different from previous Turkish strong-men, and it’s non-religious military dominated history.

      2) 1920: Hero nationalist general, and later dictator Mustafa Kemal (Kemal Atatürk=father of Turks) organized resistance after the failing Ottoman Empire and Sultan capitulated to WW1 Allies who reduced the old empire to a small state.

      3. Ottoman caliphate abolished in 1924; constitution and universal suffrage, but Kemal governed as a virtual dictator overseeing a great transformation in religious, social, and cultural, political and economic structure.

      4. 1925, the government intensified antireligious policy, abolished religious orders (e.g, Sufis), forbade polygamy, and prohibited the wearing of the traditional fez, etc. (Turkish universities still prohibited Muslim females wearing head coverings / veils when I worked at one in 2005).

      5. Post-Atatürk Turkish governments have all pretty much depended on military approval.

      6. Turkey has a very rich culture, (e.g., beautiful Blue Mosque, covered market, etc, in Istanbul). Sipping Turkish coffee at a cafe, chatting with educated Turks, can be very enjoyable.

  20. drifterprof says:

    My niece (age late 20s) is one of those that dropped off of company payrolls and is attempting to start her own business as a somewhat new-agey landscaper (focusing on pollinating plants that are native to her area, or something like that).

    She has worked in bar / restaurants contexts, as well as being a alcohol sales agent, as well as worked standard wage-earning jobs at a few other companies.

    I suppose she could be described as “woke,” living in a “woke” city. But having lived overseas for 5 years, I’m not in tune with the development of the word “woke.” It seems to be a general political attack word that doesn’t help much in defining arguments. Is there an pejorative for people on the opposite side of the spectrum, like “he’s slep” or “she’s hibernating”?

    Anyway, she is one of those who now will not work in positions dealing with the public. She says it’s too depressing — so much deep-seated hostility and always-ready-to-fight attitudes in American culture.

    Even if I were her age, I probably would do like her and avoid positions dealing with the large numbers of the public. The pandemic, political extremism, customer’s violent non-compliance with health regulations, etc. is just not worth it. There’s reason to be nervous in working with the American public, because so many do not care about spreading disease to others.

    Especially given country comparisons. A good data set is provided by John Hopkins University and Medicine’s worldwide COVID-19 mortality analysis: The U.S. is 99th among nations in people survival rate after getting covid. One might think that survival rates for people getting covid would be better than, say, Morocco or Kyrgyzstan.

    If you take deaths per 100,000, the United States is one of the worst (252 deaths per 100,000). Only 20 out of 184 countries have more deaths per 100,000 than the United States. I’m wondering what’s up with that.

    • Whatsthepoint says:

      Maybe being fat, drugged up to the eyeballs, overstressed, eating a lousy GMO diet and being angry/dumb as f$%k has a deleterious effect on the immune system, leading to poorer survival outcomes….

      • Whatsthepoint says:

        Oh, I forgot, and a predatory health care system that undertreats, overtreats or maltreats for profit at every turn….

      • VintageVNvet says:

        After watching my FIL being kept alive as close to a veggie as possible for way too many years, I have to add the industry doing that for waaaayyy too many elders is a very big part of the problem.
        That they make insane profits by keeping alive folks with massive doses of synthetic pharmaceuticals many times per day might also be a clue.
        Recently read Grisham’s novel, “Camino Winds” regarding this continuing scam, to my dismay, and now plotting how to avoid that for myself…

        • OutsideTheBox says:


          A living will plus relatives on board with your wishes will solve that for you.

          Problem happens in some states is a relative can override the living will.

          Like this: To doctor – You have to keep alive my father/mother/brother/sister etc.

          ( Because if they die, I will have to grieve. I don’t want to grieve. Please doctor keep them alive at any cost )

          Family dynamics, aren’t they just grand?

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      “The U.S. is 99th among nations in people survival rate after getting covid.”

      I find that astonishing!!

      Best of luck to your niece, she sounds like she has her head screwed on straight.

      • Depth Charge says:

        I don’t find it astonishing, I find it predictable. The US hellcare system is not interested in actually helping people and saving lives, they’re interested in money, politics and controlling narratives.

    • Lynn says:

      How many tests do you think they have in Kyrgyzstan? Kyrgyzstan is even poorer than Kazakhstan or rural Nepal. People still live in caves that are only accessible by foot trails.

      That probably has a lot to do with the statistics. Stats are only as good as the data fed to produce them. The US probably has tested more than most countries.

  21. LordSunbeamTheThird says:

    but aren’t these wage gains what the Fed has to push back against to reduce inflation? I mean the Fed has to induce a recession and unemployment if inflation is spiralling.
    ..so does that not make this kind of strong wage momentum bad because requires a stronger (worse) Fed policy response?

    Hopefully the US gets better Powell treatment than this cheeky charmer, Norman Lamont and his miracle fixes. In charge of the Bank of England -and- government spending as UK Chancellor 1990-93

    “Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying.” (Not paid by him)

    “There are going to be no devaluations” (Before the devaluation)

    • The Real Tony says:

      Powell will just keep on doing all the wrong things. Nothing will change.

      • Depth Charge says:

        I agree. Powell is an abject failure. I don’t see him doing anything right. In fact, he’s done nothing to even fight inflation, he’s still stoking it for another 3 months.

  22. cas127 says:


    “and about 8 million below pre-pandemic trend”

    If you do this kind of per yr trendline analysis over much longer periods (job creation 1980-2000, 1970-2000, etc. vs. 2000-2020) you will see why this is a very, very angry country…even pre pandemic, job creation was running at about 50% (!) of historic US norms.

    That is 20 years of pre-pandemic failure in economic governance.

    DC’s response…don’t stop/pause any of the multitude of spending grifts (helluva job US military/CDC/job programs/etc) …just devalue the currency/private savings through renamed money printing.

  23. Kenny Logouts says:

    Two points.

    The pandemic did nothing to working.
    In the 70s this would have been seen as a few bad flu seasons or similar.
    The government response to it caused the change in working habits.

    Second. It’s not even one year out of direct stimulus that has afforded all these dreamy attitudes to work.
    To call a long-term trend now is foolhardy.

    • Winston says:

      “The pandemic did nothing to working. In the 70s this would have been seen as a few bad flu seasons or similar.”

      Bologna. Not even taking into account the government handouts and lockdowns, this is one REALLY nasty bug with FAR more lasting health effects than the mere flu even for many people who had mild cases. I read and understand medical studies and see new ones almost daily describing the damages done. This is definitely NOT “just the flu.” Besides the large increase in excess deaths over the last two years, I’ll bet a lot of people have filed for disability or have retired early because of the long term effects of this thing.

  24. Jan de Jong says:

    Mike Shedlock has a piece: In Absolute and Percentage terms Consumer Credit rises the most ever..
    I wonder how sustainable the Striking out on their Own is going to be.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Jan de Jong,

      A lot of BS was reported on that because these gurus used the “annual rate” of growth that the Fed reported for November, which is the actual month-to-month rate multiplied roughly by 12.

      Credit card balances actually grew by 1.9% from October to November, which was nearly matched by the growth rate in June (1.8%) and is big. But credit card balances PLUNGED during the pandemic, and despite that growth remain far below where they used to be.

      Also note that population growth and inflation drive these numbers over the long term, and now inflation is soaring, and people are borrowing more to buy the same stuff. Here are the credit card balances in dollars – and you decide is this is sustainable or not:

      • Jan de Jong says:

        I’m not a good judge. I found credit card balances unsustainable in the 80ies and here we are.

      • Flea says:

        Wolf keep this chart handy when there’s a double top as in 2007-2009 period short market my sqqq are doing well fyi

  25. DG says:

    Quick stroll through history of the coping mechanisms of an average household… One good paying job used to support a family, then it changed to 2 people working, then both worked more hours, after that, people took on more debt.
    On people not working: with asset price inflation and rising wages, a lot of households are now in the position of going back to one good paying job (maybe includes a side hustle/part time) although there are already signs of increasing debt.
    Also, nobody seems to talk about the 200K people of working age that permanently disappeared from the workforce (so far…). Not a big number in the scheme of things but I don’t think you can ignore the psychological effects.
    On job openings: a lot of these “jobs” in the service industry that need to be filled just exist because there is a massive oversupply of businesses that scrape by because they can pay low wages. Think about all the fast food garbage places on every block.

    Just like the stock market, it will all revert to the mean eventually.

  26. Winston says:

    And 24 hour operation of Walmart and similar stores. I don’t see that coming back any time soon either.

  27. Spencer Bradley Hall says:

    Quits = Openings

    • Wolf Richter says:

      No. But SOME quits add to openings.

      If a person quits company A to take a job at company B, it creates an opening at company and removes an opening at company B. Net effect of zero on openings.

      If a person quits in order to retire, etc., it creates a new opening.

      Plus there are many openings as companies are trying to grow. These openings exist without quits. Growing businesses always have lots of openings. Filling openings is part of the pain of growing a business.

      Plus there are many openings because people got fired (not included in quits; quits is voluntary).

  28. historicus says:

    “unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, the lowest since February 2020, when it was 3.5%, which had been the low since the 1950s.”

    In the 70s, 5% was considered full employment ( people between jobs, etc)
    Now, 3.9% isnt good enough…… it is not “inclusive” enough for the Fed to consider it a victory and to move off of ZIRP.
    So inclusive is the new metric and likely we will get a new metric for inflation……that’s the game.

    • There is also the maximum number of people not in the workforce. We can solve the tight employment problem by cutting production, (corporate profit margins are the widest they have been) and tell the American consumer, you will have less stuff. The difficulty there is that while wages are rising a smaller percent of the population has a job (and can negotiate a pay raise) the rest of us are fixed income which puts the onus on government.

      • historicus says:

        In the workforce…

        The course of late has been not to hire someone, but to contract them to service. Does that show up as a hire?
        That person doing the work may not show up as employed though he is essentially working and for himself.
        Companies want to avoid the hiring, human resources bs, etc…
        Uber is an example….
        Is the driver a contractor who doesnt show as an employee? Is he employed officially….he certainly is working.

  29. The Real Tony says:

    Same old story that has been going on forever. When interest rates are set to rise like death and taxes the jobs numbers each month always come in below estimates.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Much of the data, including the unemployment rate and the total growth in employment, BEAT estimates. This report is turning the Fed more hawkish. And markets saw that.

  30. Gen Z says:

    During the early stages of the pandemic, MILLIONS of “international students” were working in factories and warehouses for minimum wage, replacing the furloughed workers who were collecting CERB benefits.

    • Cobalt Programmer says:

      Is this USA or Canada? In US, international students are allowed to work in specific areas (teaching, labs, training for highly qualified jobs). Factories and warehouse work which are of low-skilled and low paid cannot employ international students. Not only students are sent back, the universities and employers will be charged. Obviously, fraud, under the table work might exist but The percentages would be very low.

      • Gen Z says:


        I was working in many factories, because every time I got hired, me, a Canadian, get scapegoated when the line overflows or production is below target.

        The “international students” are not fit for the job at most times: They are there to cheat the system.

        The colleges like Seneca, Centennial, Lambton and Sheridan are almost 100% “international students”.

  31. Eastwind says:

    Wolf, I agree with you, the changes are probably permanent. People survive in highly inflationary economies by moving to the underground economy. That lets them get out from the control of companies that fix salaries. It moves them into positions where they provide products or services directly and they can raise their prices daily if need be, require payment in cash, and under-report their income if they want.

    Even if they choose to follow the law and report all their income, being in the cash economy may let them avoid withholding. That lets them spend their income when it will still buy something while not setting aside money to pay the IRS until the very end of the period when it’s worth much less. Instead of working the first 105 days of the year to pay taxes, they can give the IRS the inflated income from the last 50 days. Or 5 days under significant hyperinflation.

    Lets Go Brandon is expanding its meaning to a rejection of “the whole system” – of corporate employment, taxation, and debt servitude.

  32. Michael Engel says:

    For entertainment purposes only ==>
    2) SPY might be building a Lazer trending up : Nov 5 high to Jan 4 high //
    parallel from Dec 3 Low.
    3) When China winter Olympic will be over, the Evergrande symptoms might suck the global market. The cause : China’s Creditanstalt.
    4) A shakeout, 1962 style, might deflate the “hyperinflation”.
    5) JP RRP will protect us from Shi ShiPining second strike.
    6) Manchin might cave in.
    7) Thereafter a recovery to 2023 high.

  33. Michael Engel says:

    Claudia Sahm recession Indicator @(-)0.88,
    equal to 1983 low, the lowest ever, followed by the highest spike.

  34. Michael Engel says:

    USDTRY backbone (BB) Nov 22/23 2021.
    USDTRY osc above/ below BB < bubble peak.
    Erdogan used inflation as a springboard for Turkey economy in the next few years.
    He might win a third term in June 18 2023 election.

  35. cas127 says:


    Why was my attempt to explain one possible reconciliation of the JOLTS/CES numbers deleted?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I should have deleted the BS question WES asked, but I saw it too late. BS questions trigger BS answers, and the comments become a compendium of BS. After I saw your comment, I deleted several levels up, including yours (without having read your), because people kept responding to WES’s BS question without reading the article or my comments about WES’s question, and the whole thing was hijacking the comments with BS upon BS. ALL future responses to that question will be deleted.

      BS questions are the bane of any comment section; they should be deleted instantly.

      I deleted the parts related to the BS question in this current comment as well. I didn’t even read them and have no idea whether I agree or disagree. It doesn’t matter.

  36. RedRaider says:

    The new retirement age is 53!

    Let me present my case. The way my 401k worked was my employer matched my first $1k contribution 100% and my next $2k contribution 50% for a total contribution of $5k/year. I imagine everyone has something comparable. If I turned 40 in 2008 I would have accumulated $100k. The S&P500 says between 2000 and 2008 I would have lost 1/2 leaving $50k. The S&P then went up 5.75 fold into 2021. This would have increased my $50k to $287.5k into 2021. Between 2008 and 2021 I would have contributed an additional $65k for a total $352k. Even in today’s market it’s not difficult to achieve a 2% return on your investment which would provide me $7k/year. If I had $30k in personal savings I could add $3k/year for a total $10k/year for 10 years and by that time SS checks would start.

    Can’t live on $10k/year you say? I’m 72 and living on 1/2 my SS check. Of course, you’ll need more in a high COLA location.

    If I’m 40 in 2008 then I’m 53 now. So everyone older then 52 is in this boat. And isn’t in interesting the huge boomer generation qualifies.

    Is it really surprising there’s so many job openings and no takers?

Comments are closed.