Thursday, January 31, 2008

Monster Really Scares Me

Just as I finished leaving a comment (not yet accepted as of this writing) on Paul Krugman's blog arguing that UI claims for January remain on balance in the "good news" column and that the personal consumption report is not bad news given what we already knew about retail sales, I learned that the Monster Employment Index (which measures online help wanted advertising) fell by a whopping 9 points (from 169 to 160) in January, after falling an even more whopping (but less surprising given the usual seasonal pattern) 14 points in December and a not so whopping (but still significant because the index has never dropped 3 months in a row before) 5 points in November. That makes a total drop of 28 points, or about 15%, over 3 months. Before December 2007, the index had never fallen by more than 3% over any 3 month period (since it began in October 2003). And note that the 15% drop comes as newspaper help wanted advertising is scraping against an all time low (since 1951, when the Conference Board's index began, but note that in December, it rose slightly from the all-time low in November). Over the past week or two, I had been starting to think that the odds were shifting against recession. Now I'm not so sure. In any case I think we can rule out the possibility that 2008 will turn out unexpectedly to be a year of normal growth. And I'm not so worried about import prices now; I think they'll be offset by a slowing of domestic inflation.

[UPDATE3: OK, now I found the post on Paul Krugman's blog where he said that someone else edits the comments. (I missed it the first time, because it was in an update that I didn't read.) And I notice that one of my comments on an earlier post has suddenly appeared. I guess they decided I was a respectable commenter after all.]

[UPDATE2: I removed the previous update, because Paul Krugman (or whoever approves comments for his blog) did approve my comment. (See link at the top.) I had assumed it wasn't going to be approved, because there were later comments comments already approved, but I guess these things don't necessarily go in order.]

[UPDATE: [removed] ]

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Blogger David said...

Equally informative would be Monster's traffic stats. Do you know if they're available?

Thu Jan 31, 03:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Karl Smith said...

Last summer I was thinking the recession would hit Q2 2008. The slow data put me in the January recession camp but now I may be slowly backing down to my previous estimate.

However, it is difficult for me to see how the credit situation plays it self out without a recession. Not to mention I think we have almost as much to fall in residential construction as we have already fallen.

My guess is that on both credit and over building that we will shoot right through the median level of 3.5% of gdp all the way down to lower 2%.

My guess is that inventory levels are much a higher than official reports because of record cancellations.

Also this type of thing can't be encouraging to anyone.

Thu Jan 31, 03:27:00 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Have you been able to check other job listing sites as well. The reason I ask is that I am a current job seeker and I have found the number of jobs on Monster to be lacking, while other sites are loaded with jobs.

Could this drop be a reflection of something specific to Monster and not indicative of the job market as a whole?

Thu Jan 31, 09:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger knzn said...

The index is constructed by Monster, but it's supposed to take into account all online recruiting, including other sites as well as advertising that employers do on their own sites.

(I could imagine that maybe the sites that they look at are not complete or representative; presumably they have better and more timely information about their own site. I guess I should read up on their methodology.)

Thu Jan 31, 10:43:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some other stats that you may want to look at to get a sense of how bad the job market has been for *years*...

1) Get the employed-to-population stats from - it will show that millions fewer are working now than would be in a normal "recovery" (er, the "recovery" just ended...).

The employed-to-population ratio is a vastly superior stat compared to unemployment percentages (which utterly ignore the fate of new labor market entrants - ie, grads - and long term employed. Both groups are essentially defined out of existence for the "unemployment" rates.

2) Also at, look at the absolute number of employed in states like MI, OH, IN, CO, etc. - some have *fewer* total employed now than they did in 2000 and the rest have tiny annual growth rates in employment.

For those states, it isn't a recession they are is a depression that is continuing...

3) Finally at, look at the employment by profession stats. Although the data series integrity has been badly damaged by budget cutting and changes in methodology, there is at least the suggestion that financial and management employment was decimated by the "past" recession and never recovered (in brief, I find it enormously suspicious that hundreds of thousands of employees in the financial management category used to be specifically categorized by job type and are now all simply lumped under "other". I think it is possible that hundreds of thousands of employees in the financial/management category have lost their middle class standing over the last 7 years...)

Fri Feb 01, 11:42:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I reading too much into the unemployment report or do these numbers distort further what is happening in the market? I read that the growth was in the generally low wage services job area. We lost jobs in construction, manufacturing and government - all middle income jobs. That also means home owners, people with kids getting educations, needing to purchase big ticket items, etc. This does not even talk about home financing of lifestyle. I see a very bumpy road! Better fasten our seatbelts.

Fri Feb 01, 01:32:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a very interesting topic! I am very scared!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but monster sucks. People are moving away from monster. You measured some of that in the 9%. I would wager that more than half of the 9% (and maybe way more than half) is this effect. Still, the direction of movement is clear.

Fri Feb 01, 08:36:00 PM EST  
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