Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Help

Today the Conference Board announced that in August, its Help Wanted Advertising Index fell for the eighth straight month, by a larger-than-expected 8% (using the integer numbers that the Board reports), to its first new all-time low since 1958. ("All-time" in this case means since 1951, when the series began.) This means that major newspapers in the US carried fewer help wanted ads than they did at the depth of the 1958 recession. This is despite the fact that the scale of the US economy, by any measure, has more than doubled since 1958. (In particular, there were about 51 million employees on nonagricultural payrolls in mid-1958, compared to 138 million today.) It's also despite the fact that many of the smaller local newspapers, which used to compete with the surveyed major newspapers for advertising, have gone out of business or been absorbed by the major newspapers during that time.

Part of the explanation is the emergence, over the past decade, of online recruiting as an alternative to newspaper-based recruiting. This is only a partial explanation, though, and it only helps explain the general downward trend in newspaper help wanted advertising over the past decade, not the specific decline this year. Online help wanted advertising, according to the Monster Employment Index, has been (uncharacteristically) roughly flat since March (over which time the Conference Board index* has fallen by 23%), though the Monster index has doubled between October 2003 and today. But in 2003, online help wanted advertising had only 19% of the market share vs. newspapers, so even the doubling doesn't begin to make up for the 36% drop in newspaper help wanted advertising over the same period.

Also this morning, ironically perhaps, we got the news that new unemployment claims fell below 300,000 in the week ended September 22, for the first time since May. There has been no pattern of rising unemployment claims this year while help wanted advertising has been steadily falling. Apparently, the US is experiencing a new kind of economic weakness -- one where the trailing edge of the labor market keeps steady but the leading edge stops advancing.


*UPDATE: Just to clarify, I'm referring to the index of newspaper help wanted advertising discussed in the previous paragraph. The Conference Board also has an index of online help wanted advertising, but I haven't started to follow it yet.

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16 Comments:

Blogger Laurent GUERBY said...

In 2004 according to OECD, normalized unemployment for men aged 25 to 54 was 4.6% in the USA and 7.4% in France. At the same time and for the same population the employment rate (number of workers divided by population) was 86.3% in the USA and 86.7% in France.

This example shows that the unemployment rate is 60% higher in France than in the USA, yet more people in this demographic are working in France than in the USA, which is counterintuitive if it is expected that the unemployment rate reflects the health of the labor market

Thu Sep 27, 02:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger spencer said...

this implies that the economy is not creating new jobs but on the other hand it has not been destroying old jobs.

I suspect the heavy concentration of illegal aliens in construction may be creating a bias in the initial unemployment claims.

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