AP's Wiseman Tries to Explain Away Clear Trend Towards Part-Time Employment as Merely 'Volatile'

In a Saturday afternoon dispatch, the Associated Press marred a mostly decent presentation of the August employment situation reported by the government yesterday in three ways.

The first is the story's misleading headline: "The Job Market Fed Faces: Healing But Still Ailing." Whether there's genuine healing going on is highly debatable, given that the labor force participation rate fell to 63.2 percent, its lowest level since 1978, and the clear trend towards part-time work. AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman's treatment of that trend and another related one represent the report's other three weaknesses, as seen in the following three paragraphs (bolds are mine):


The jobs the economy is generating this year have tended to be low-paying, part-time or both. More than 654,000 - or 45 percent - of the 1.44 million jobs added this year come from three generally low-paying industries: department stores and other retailers; hotels and restaurants; and temporary services.

And nearly 60 percent of the jobs added this year have been part-time, though economists caution that the part-time employment figures are volatile.

The lower quality of the available jobs is one reason pay has stagnated. The average hourly earnings of private-sector employers haven't kept up with inflation since the end of the recession.

Wiseman didn't provide any context for the "nearly 60 percent" part-time employment makeup. Here's that context, showing that the percentage of part-time worker additions (or deletions in years when total employment shrunk) is higher than in any year since the mid-1990s, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics improved its ability to detect part-time workers who also work full-time:

FTvsPTjobPercentages1996to0813

The raw data used to create the table is here.

This year's 41%-59% full-time vs. part-time split through August represents by far the lowest percentage of full-time job creation in the sixteen years presented.

The previous full-time component low was 65% in 2004. As that year unfolded, that much less pronounced situation became fodder for left-wing think tank and left-wing newspaper wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Today? Left-wing commentators and so-called mainstream economists are spending their time and energy telling us that we're not seeing what we're really seeing, while the establishment press frequently and with rare exceptions obfuscates. In his Thursday conference call after the ADP employment report was issued, Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics claimed that "the BLS data is very volatile" (do I hear an echo?), and that it's "hard to conclude that there’s a trend in the data." Look at the graph, Mark. No amount of "volatily" excuse-making can explain away this year's result thus far.

The third weakness is Wiseman's failure to cite the impending implementation of Obamacare as a probable cause for the move to net part-time hiring.

The final weakness is in Wiseman's final excerpted paragraph above. Wiseman could have simply written that "real average hourly earnings have fallen since the recession ended four years ago." It would also have been really easy to cite Sentier Research's estimated real income decline of 4.4 percent from June 2009 through Une 2013. But I guess that would been a little too clear for comfort.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.