What's Hot and What's Not in Dissecting Jobs Numbers

What’s in and out of fashion with dissecting jobs numbers changes quickly. We take you up to speed.


The labor force participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points in March to 63.3, its lowest rate since 1979, signaling that the declining unemployment rate does not mean that more people are working.

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Yet as more time passes, any distortions in the numbers should diminish. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke commented last month that while seasonal adjustment may have affected 2010 and 2011's figures, "at this point, that we're far enough away from the recession that those seasonal factors ought to be pretty much washing out by now."

Hot: Affordable Care Act

Though it was passed three years ago, the Affordable Care Act may now start to drag down the job market. That's because a provision that goes into effect in 2014 requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide insurance to its workers or pay a fine. It is possible that employers will pull back on hiring in order to be able to provide insurance, or pull back on hours for their employees to make less of them "full-time." Speaking to reporters this week, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said this may already be affecting hiring.

Not: Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act is far more politically polarizing than the labor force participation rate or even sequestration. Therefore, for every argument that Obamacare is destroying jobs, expect to hear another vehement argument that it creates them. Some people argue that, because more people will be insured and visiting doctors, there will be more hiring in health care, not to mention at insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. And if both this and the job-killing argument are true, it could mean a more subtle effect on jobs numbers. So even if it's difficult to discern how health care reform will affect jobs in the year ahead, it's at the very least sure to be a hot topic.

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