Thursday, June 02, 2005

more on entry job numbers

The more I dig into this peculiar dataset, the more I'm sure I found something significant - but I'm not sure what and so I'm not sure it's significant. Tentatively, a hypothesis:

Economic "job health" has a strong indicator in the employment numbers of the initial entry people - mainly the 16-19 age group, and less blatant but still showing the same patterns in the 20-24 age group.

Some numbers based on the past decade. 16-19 year olds form about 5-6% of the total civilian labor force - the 'better' the economy, the higher the number. Yet 16-19 year olds form 15-20% of the unemployment force - the better the economy the lower the number. Surprisingly, about half this group is full-time (or unemployed looking for fulltime), but the worse the economy the lower this proportion goes. And then the kicker - in rough economic times the proportion of workforce (working or unemployed) to total age group population drops A LOT - ten percent in comparison to a 2-3 % drop in most other age groups. (And the other peculiarity but maybe not so peculiar - a 2-3% INCREASE in labor force participation in the oldest age group of 54+.)

As I said, the 20-24 numbers while not as large follow the same trends.

GUESS. In rough times, there are just flat fewer opportunities for the people just entering the workforce. Fewer new openings exist, and there is more competition from people with more experience for those same fewer openings. That explains it, and I think I can justify it.

The hard part is "so what"? What good is recognizing and watching these numbers? Tentatively, I suggest that it's a tool for watching the "job market" - one which is more discriminating and so giving a more qualitive answer instead of merely quantitive. Is it churn and stopgap, or is it career type jobs? Although the supportive question is which number or numbers is/are most relevant for this. hmmmm.


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