A Very Long View of the Labor Market Ahead of the Long Labor Day Weekend

My first “Employment Friday” as part of the labor market was in early October 1986 as I took my first job out of college at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (https://www.cbo.gov/).

I don’t know what the original report said at the time, but today (after 30 years of revisions) the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 347,000 jobs were created in September 1986. Today was my 360th Employment Friday (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf), although a few government shutdowns, some bad weather, and other unforeseen events put the real number at around 350. I missed a few while in grad school, a (very few) for vacations or my honeymoon, but not many. For an Economic Strategist, every employment Friday is the Super Bowl.

Over those 30 years, the U.S. economy has created 45 million net new jobs. I say net new, because the U.S. economy is very active when it comes to creative destruction. The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report or JOLTS (http://www.bls.gov/jlt/jltprovq.htm), which didn’t come along until 2004, tells us that in the 12 months ending in June 2016, the economy “lost” 60 million jobs but “created” 62 million.

The creation of those 45 million net new jobs over the last 30 years came amid/despite/because of:

  • Two ordinary recessions (1990–91, 2001) and a Great Recession (2007–2009)
  • A commercial real estate bubble
  • A tech bubble
  • A housing bubble
  • A stock market crash (1987)
  • Several flash crashes for the U.S. equity markets
  • 3 equity bear markets
  • 26 years of budget deficits (and 4 of surpluses!!)
  • 5 Presidents (Reagan (R), G.H.W. Bush (R) , Clinton (D), G.W. Bush (R), and Obama (D))
  • 7 presidential elections and 8 midterm elections
  • 8 Speakers of the House (O’Neill (D), Wright (D), Foley (D), Gingrich (R), Hastert (R), Pelosi (D), Boehner (R), and Ryan (R))
  • 8 Senate Majority Leaders (Dole (R), Byrd (D), Mitchell (D), Lott (R), Daschle (D), Frist (R), Reid (D), and McConnell (R)
  • Three Fed Chairs (Greenspan, Bernanke, and Yellen)
  • 4 Fed rate hike cycles (and the start of a 5th)
  • 4 Fed rate cut cycles
  • Several wars
  • The horrific events of 9/11/01 and subsequent acts of terror on these shores

I can say with certainty that the mix of jobs created in 1986 were not the same as in 1996, or 2006, or certainly here in 2016. Looking ahead, I guess I hope I’m around to see what happens over the next 360 Employment Fridays.

Enjoy the long weekend.


Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security.

The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a nondiversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk.

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) is a survey done by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to help measure job vacancies. It collects data from employers including retailers, manufacturers and different offices each month. Respondents to the survey answer quantitative and qualitative questions about their businesses’ employment, job openings, recruitment, hires and separations. The JOLTS data is published monthly and by region and industry.

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