CDLE Data – Many Have Not Recovered from Great Recession

With great excitement the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced that the state’s wage and salary employment finally returned to its peak in 2008.

It took five years for the state to return to the pre-recession employment levels.


A closer look at the unemployment data is even more disturbing. As a result of the downturn, the number of unemployed workers increased by 123,500. To date, this number has only decreased by 51,300. In other words, the number of unemployed workers is 72,200 greater than five years ago.

Clearly, there are many in the state who have not recovered from the Great Recession and the addition of 150,000+ jobs!

For additional details about the performance of the state economy, go to the website or click here.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

“Our Businesses Have Created Over Six Million Jobs” – True, But…

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama stated, “After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.”

The jobs data produced by BLS tells at least four accurate, but different stories about the state of U.S. private sector employment.

1. The trough of the recession occurred in February 2010. About 6,111,000 private sector jobs were added between February 2010 and January 2013.

2. When President Obama took office in January 2009, private sector employment was 111,048,000. In January 2013, it was only 113,111,000. During the first four years of President Obama’s presidency, private sector employment increased by about 2 million workers.

3.  In December of 2000 private sector employment peaked at 111,776,000. The recovery from the 2001 recession took 54 months, or until June 2005, to return to its 2000 peak. The rebound continued until January 2008 when private sector employment peaked at 115,668,000. Just over 8.8 million jobs were lost between then and February 2010 when private sector employment bottomed out at 106,850,000, well below the peak in 2000. Specifically, in January 2009, employment dropped below the 2000 peak. Forty three months later, mid-2012, the number of jobs again exceeded the 2000 peak. At the time President Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union speech private sector employment was only about 1.2 million jobs greater than the peak in 2000.

4.  Private sector employment will not reach 2008 peak employment until mid-2014. In other words it will take about 72 months, or 6 six years for full recovery of the private sector from the 2008 recession.

The wisdom of Darrell Huff, author of How to Lie with Statistics, should be heeded when reviewing data produced by political leaders, economists, and business leaders.  Statistics can tell many stories.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Stagnancy in the Size of the Colorado Labor Force – The Lost Decade and Beyond

In a previous post, the topic of discussion was the stagnancy of the labor force during the 1980s (click here). In that case the size of the labor force was flat for about five years because of a regional recession, weak wage and salary job growth, and negative net migration. This post will look at the size of the labor force during the Great Recession and beyond.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) are available for Colorado beginning in 1976. Since then, the month-over-prior month labor force increased about 87% of the time (383 of 442 months). In a vibrant economy, periodic ups and downs are expected, but increases in the size of the labor force are generally the rule of the thumb.

Between April 2000 and October 2012 there were 30 months with decreases in the month-over-prior month size of the labor force. In January 2008 there were 2,722,015 workers. By April 2009 the number had risen to 2,758,468 workers.

During the past 42 months, there were 19 month-over-prior month declines. There were 2,725,803 workers in the October 2012 labor force. This was 32,665 fewer than the level in April 2009 and essentially the same as January 2008.

Next, we will look at three data sets for the period: Wage and Salary job growth, Net migration, and the Unemployment Rate.

For the years, 2009-2012, wage and salary job growth was devastating, with back-to-back net job losses in 2009 and 2010. The net change in wage and salary jobs follows:
• 2008 19,000
• 2009 -104,700
• 2010 -23,300
• 2011  33,000
• 2012 est  45,000

Unlike the 1980s, when the state experienced negative net migration, there has been solid positive net migration, i.e. more people moved into the state than out of it. The net migration follows:
• 2008 45,000
• 2009 36,300
• 2010 37,000
• 2011 34,900
• 2012 est 36,800

For this period the unemployment rate varied from 4.8% to 8.0%. While the monthly rate has dropped from a high of 9.0% in 2010, the 2012 annual rate remains the same as it was in 2009.
• 2008 4.8%
• 2009 8.1%
• 2010 8.9%
• 2011 8.3%
• 2012 8.0%

For all intensive purposes, the size of the labor force will be about the same as it was at the end of 2009 and the number of employed and unemployed workers will be similar.

• The 33,000 wage and salary jobs added in 2011 lowered the unemployment rate by 0.6% points, yet growth of 45,000 jobs in 2012 will lower it by 0.3% points.
• For the period 2008 to 2012, total net migration was 190,000; approximately 125,000 of these individuals are 16-65 years old.

This raises a series of questions:
• How many people have become contract or 1099 workers? How many have become sole proprietors and owned family businesses? How many people are working temporary jobs? Will they still work in this capacity when the economy recovers or will they take wage and salary jobs?
• How many workers have stopped working who don’t show up in the data?
• What are the in migrants doing? Did they take jobs that Colorado residents might have taken? Are they working in other capacities?
• How many families with dual incomes now only have one income?
• Have the published unemployment numbers been manipulated to meet political agendas?

There seem to be more questions than answers and the numbers do not seem to reconcile. As grave as the employment situation has been, it appears that the unemployment rate may be inaccurate and may have understated the magnitude of the problem.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Stagnancy in the Size of the Colorado Labor Force – 1980s

The unemployment rate is one of the most popular, but overrated statistics for measuring the performance of the economy. It is such a crude measurement of economic performance that the state’s labor economist was recently quoted in the media as saying that it shouldn’t be taken at face value.

The calculation of the unemployment rate is simple. The number of unemployed workers is added to the number of employed workers (wage and salary, sole proprietors, and others) and that equals the size of the labor force. The unemployment rate is simply the number of unemployed workers divided by the size of the labor force.

In other words, the size of the labor force is a key component in determining the accuracy of the unemployment rate. This brings us to the topic of this post – the size of the labor force.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) are available for Colorado beginning in 1976. Since then, month-over-prior month labor force increased about 87% of the time (383 of 442 months). In a vibrant economy, periodic ups and downs are expected, but increases in the size of the labor force are generally the rule of the thumb.

There are two periods when the size of the labor force did not increase, during the 1980s and the late 2000s. The following analysis looks a period during the 1980s.

Between September 1984 through April 1989 the size of the labor force declined in 29 of 53 months.

In August 1984 the size of the labor force, as measured by LAUS data,  was 1,719,239. It declined sharply in 1985, bounced back for most of 1986, and fell sharply in 1987. It remained flat for much of 1988 and into the first part of 1989. In June of 1989, the labor force was reported at 1,719,824. From that point, it continued to grow.

Next, we will look at three data sets for the period: Wage and Salary job growth, Net migration, and the unemployment rate.

During this period, Wage and Salary (CES)  job growth was weak, with net job losses in 1987. The net change in wage and salary jobs follows:
• 1984   75,100
• 1985   16,400
• 1986  -10,400
• 1987       4,300
• 1988    23,500
• 1989    46,200
• 1990    38,600

The CES and LAUS series are different measures of employment, but they should tell a similar story about changes in employment.

During this period the state experienced negative net migration, i.e. more people moved out of the state than into the state. The net migration follows:
• 1984      2,782
• 1985      5,172
• 1986     -5,270
• 1987   -13,997
• 1988   -24,280
• 1989   -18,752
• 1990   -12,964

For this period the unemployment rate varied from 5.4% to 7.5%. It remained at a higher than normal level because unemployed workers were able to move outside the region and find work. The annual unemployment rates for this period were:
• 1984   5.4%
• 1985   6.0%
• 1986   7.5%
• 1987   7.5%
• 1988   6.4%
• 1989   5.6%
• 1990   5.1%

The labor force was stagnant for about five years for the following reasons:
• There was a regional recession
• Weak wage and salary job growth
• Negative net migration.

A similar stagnancy in the size of the labor force occurred during the 2000s. It is more difficult to understand and will be discussed in a later post (click here).

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Are We Better Off Now Than We Were Four Years Ago? – The United States

During this election season the politicians have raised the question, “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?” It is easy to find data that supports or rejects the notion that “we” are better off today, but it is difficult to provide a clear cut answer either way.

U.S. Output
• Real GDP output is stronger than 4 years ago, although it is increasing at a less than desirable rate.
• Since 1930 Real GDP has increased 64 of 82 years, or 78% of the time. It has declined in back-to-back years from 1930 to 1933, 1945 to 1947, 1974 to 1975, and 2008 to 2009. It is very simple. Because the U.S. population is growing there is increased demand for goods most of the time, hence increased output.

U.S. Debt
• From 1966 to 2000, the Federal debt rose from $.3 trillion to $5.8 trillion. By mid-2012 it has reached almost $16 trillion.
• From Q3 2008 to Q4 2010 consumers began deleveraging. Since then, they have continued to take on debt at a pre-2008 pace.
• While an argument can be made that it was necessary for the U.S. to incur a portion of the debt to prevent a depression, it is difficult to justify the over-consumption by consumers.

U.S. Employment and Unemployment
• During the 69 months between January 2007 and September 2012 the U.S. lost jobs in 31 months and gained jobs in 38 months.
• In 2012, total U.S. employment is below total employment in 2008; jobs are being added at a faster rate than they were in 2008.
• In 2012 the number of jobs added is trending upward, whereas it was trending downward in 2008.
• The number of unemployed workers is much higher in 2012 than in 2007 and 2008.
• The unemployment rate in 2012 is much higher than in 2008.
• In 2012, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed workers is trending downward, whereas, it was trending upward in 2008.
• Since 1940 U.S. employment has increased 54 of 72 years, or 80% of the time. Five of the 14 declining years have occurred in the past decade (2002-2003 and 2008-2010). The increase in population coupled with the increase in demand for goods and services has generally resulted in an increase in jobs.

Financial Well-Being
• The 2012 Credability Consumer Distress Index is above the 2008 level and trending upwards (this is good news).  Consumers are still “At Risk.”
• Health Care Coverage – The 2011 percentage of coverage is slightly below the 2008 level.
• Dow Jones Industrial Average – the DJIA is about 4,800 points above its level at this time (October) in 2008.
• Housing prices – Nationally, 2012 housing prices are below 2008 levels.

• Average gas prices for 2008 were $3.21 per gallon. Through the first 44 weeks of 2012, average prices are $3.57 per gallon.
• After bottoming out in early 2009 U.S. auto sales have trended upward and are approaching 15 million a year.  Sales in 2012 are better than 2008.

For more detailed analysis of the state of the economy compared to four years ago, visit or click here.


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Leisure and Hospitality Leads the Recovery

The Leisure and Hospitality (L&H) Sector has played a critical role in the recovery of the national and state economies. It is important because of the number of jobs added and because it is part of the economy in every county in the state.

Nationally, seasonally adjusted employment peaked in December 2008 at 13,560,000 workers. The number of workers declined with the Great Recession and in March 2012 employment surpassed that previous peak, reaching 13,587,000. It took 50 months for the sector to go from peak-to-trough-to-peak.

There was a similar pattern for Colorado. L&H employment peaked in May 2009 at 276,000. L&H Employment declined with the recession and in January 2012 it surpassed the prior peak at 277,800. It took 44 months for the state sector to recover.

While 50 and 44 months is a long time, it is possible that the overall state economy may take close to six years before it reaches the 2006 peak.

Nationally, the time from peak to trough was 24 months, or two years. During this time 637,000 jobs were lost. The recovery period was slightly longer, 26 months.

At the state level, the time from peak-to-trough was 20 months. About 16,000 jobs were lost during this period. The recovery period was 24 months.

It is depressing to consider some of these number; however, it is even more unsettling to think that these numbers describe one of the state’s stronger sectors.

For additional information on the overall state economy go to the website.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

It is Time to Right the Ship – America’s Financial System

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter, recently released a book entitled Strategic Vision – America and the Crisis of Global Power.

In his book, Brzezinski lays out America’s assets and liabilities, listing six of each. On the liability side, he focuses extensively on the flawed financial system.

In a footnote on page 48, the author highlights data from Roger Lowenstein’s, The End of Wall Street (2010) explaining the social and economic consequences of the “self-induced 2008-2009 financial crisis (note the use of the phrase self-induced):
• Average deficits of G-20 nations increased from 1% to 8% (p. 294).
• By 2009, American share of the national debt was $24,000-$2,500 of which was debt to China (p. 294).
• America’s total national wealth decreased from $64 trillion to $51 trillion (p. 284).
• America’s unemployment rate reached 10.2% (p. 284).
• The United States lost 8 million jobs (p. 284.)
• Mortgage foreclosures increased from 74,000 a month in 2005 to 280,000 a month in the summer of 2008, and a high of 360,000 in July 2009 (p. 147 and p. 283.)
• Banks failed at a rate of three per week in 2009 (p. 282).
• During the spring of 2009, 15 million American families owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth (p. 282).
• There was a total GDP contraction of 3.8% – the biggest contraction since post WWII demobilization (p. 282).
• America experienced its longest recession since the 1930s ( p. 282).
• Stocks fell 57%-the biggest drop since the Great Depression (p. 281).

These data quantify how tough the times have been for Americans. Brzezinski takes it a step further by pointing out that one of America’s greatest assets is its overall economic strength and the power associated with that position. In other words there is a lot of incentive for the U.S. to right the ship and fix the problems with its financial system – immediately.

For details, check out the book. It is a must read!


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Chance of Recession Recedes – The Conference Board

There are signs the economy is improving. The unemployment rate is trending downward, retail sales are trending upward, and manufacturing has added jobs in 2012. For the 220,000+ unemployed Coloradans and those who aren’t captured in the UI numbers, it feels like the Great Recession never ended.

In recent months, The Conference Board (TChad demonstrated an ability to more accurately assess the economy than other groups. As a result, people took notice when they pushed the odds of another downturn up to 52% in October. A short-term historical look at TCB’s chance of recession statistics follows:
• July   17%
• August   33%
• September  45%
• October  52%
• November 32%
• December     9%

It is good news that the November and December percentages dropped off significantly. If a recession had occurred, it would have been short and shallow – barring a major shock. The economy has performed at a subpar level for so long and the recovery has been so weak that there would be little room for further deterioration in the event of another downturn.

Within the past month there has been reason to be more upbeat. Patience will continue to be a virtue as Coloradans weather the recovery.


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

10 Years After 9/11 – Creative Financing Fizzles

In early 2003 a reporter posed the question, “Looking back, what did you miss in forecasting the 2001 recession?” In hindsight, there were two signals of greater problems.

1. Colorado construction output began to decline in 2001.
2. Employment in the Colorado Financial Activities Sector moved counter to total employment during the 2001 recession.

At that time, it was difficult to understand these trends because they were not fully developed. In the months prior to 9/11, the economy had slowed, but remained strong. Very few noticed the slowdown in construction output and those who did thought it to be nothing more than a bump in the road.

By mid-decade it became more apparent that the strength of the construction industry was waning. T-Rex was winding down and the only major activity was a smaller highway project in Colorado Springs, the Comanche Power Plant in Pueblo, and a mixture of school construction additions or improvements. In addition, housing permits, and valuation began to level off.

By 2007, housing construction began to slip and by 2008 it was clear that the industry was faced with more than a “bump in the road”. Between 2007 and 2009, 1-in-6 of the private sector jobs lost were either in construction or construction-related industries.

In hindsight, more economists and bank officials should have questioned why employees were being added in the Financial Activities Sector during a downturn. When 9/11 occurred, the economy came to a grinding halt for several days. Americans were encouraged to keep spending in hopes the country could consume its way out of the recession. At the time, that seemed to be the right thing to do.

Creative financing products (HELOCS, 0% financing, interest only loans, reverse mortgages, and others) were designed to stimulate consumption. Demand for these products increased in popularity because they allowed Americans to purchase whatever they wanted. To meet that demand, financial employment expanded between 2000 and 2007.

In 2007 a series of problems began to surface, the popularity of these products dropped off, and employment in the sector reversed trend – sharply. The industry experienced a complete melt-down – collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of major banks by national governments, bank consolidations and closures, declines in consumer wealth, failure of top businesses, volatile equity markets, declining property values, foreclosures and evictions, and much lower interest rates.

In hindsight it is now easy to see that in 2002 there were signals that greater problems lay ahead. Given the circumstances, it is also easy to see why we looked past those warnings.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Concentration of State Construction Workers Declining

Colorado Construction employment peaked in 2006 and has been on a downward path since. Not seasonally adjusted data topped 175,000 jobs in 2006. Today, there are 102,000 workers, comparable to mid-1995.

The large number of foreclosures and reduction in housing prices brought the construction of single family housing to a screeching halt. Approximately 9,500 permits will be pulled in 2011, up from the trough in 2009 (7,231). This is a far cry from the peak in 2004 (40,753).

Because it is difficult for geographically large states to develop distinctive competencies in construction, the concentration or workers, or location quotient (LQ), should be near 1.0. (A location quotient is the ratio. It is the percentage of state construction workers divided by the percentage of U.S. construction workers).

A LQ greater than 1.0 indicates a higher concentration of construction workers, much as the state has had for the past 20 years. On the other hand, a LQ less than 1.0 means Colorado has less of a concentration, much as occurred at the end of the 1980s because of overbuilding.

The state LQ for construction workers remained below 1.0 through mid-1991. It increased for the next 10 years (2001) to about 1.5. In early 2001, the LQ began declining and dropped off sharply for three years (2004). It leveled off for five years, then plummeted again in 2009.

How low will the LQ go? In theory it is reverting to 1.0. As the country recovers from the Great Recession, other sectors will expand at a faster, thus driving the LQ lower. It will rise again when Colorado experiences another strong expansionary phase.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.