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By New_Deal_democrat March 10, 2014 1:42 pm
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The US employment situation is far weaker than the Feburary jobs number suggests
While February job growth was decent at +175,000, the overall US employment picture in the last few months has deteriorated substantially. 
 
First of all, since 2009 there was been some apparent unresolved seasonality in the report:  winter employment report were considerably stronger than summer employment reports.  Not so this year, as shown in the below graph of the percent of YoY employment gains:

In the last 3 months, the YoY% change has declined to near a 3 year low.

 
When we look at aggregate hours worked, a more granular measure of employment, the picture is even less rosy.   Here's the index for the last 20 years:
 
What I want you to notice is that the index rarely declines for more than one month during an expansion.  In fact, during the last 50 years, it has only declined for 3 months during an expansion twice - until now
 
Lest you think that is not much of a deal, here is the YoY% change in aggregate hours for the last 50 years:
 
Seven out of the 9 previous times that the YoY% change in aggregate hours was as low as it is now, the economy had entered a recession.
 
I hasten to add that very few other economic data series look as poor as aggregate hours do now.   I suspect this is transitory weakness due partly to the unusually severe winter, and also the cutoff in extended unemployment benefits, which had its biggest impact in January and February.
 
But aggregate hours worked is believed to be one of the metrics that the NBER consults in determining if there is a recession, and right now, 3 of the 4 others -  real retail sales, industrial production, and real personal income ex transfer payments - have been negative for at least one month.  So it has to be acknowledged that this is a real soft patch.
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