The Jobs Recovery Looks Different Now
Data revisions have radically altered what we thought has happened over the past two years even if the total employment rebound looks essentially the same.
From one perspective, the latest U.S. jobs numbers are entirely consistent with what we knew before: the economy is recovering rapidly from the impact of the pandemic, and workers are benefiting as a result. But data revisions mean that the details underneath the aggregate numbers now look substantially different. Some sectors that had seemed to be in severe trouble are doing better than ever, while others are doing even worse. And a few have been booming even more than previously believed.
The big picture is that employment is still about 2% (3 million people) below the levels of February 2020. Fortunately, that gap should continue to close as the public health situation improves. Most of the people who weren’t working in January have either left the labor force temporarily due to the pandemic, or had recently been furloughed due to the Omicron variant. The number of workers who claimed to be “employed with an unpaid absence” was almost 1.7 million above normal for January.
The details of the revisions are where things get interesting.