In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, economist Edward P. Lazear suggested that a better understanding of the current employment landscape comes not from counting the number of people employed, but rather by determining the average number of hours worked per week by those currently employed. If 100 full-time workers are replaced by 120 half-time workers, there is a net loss of employment.
Based on numbers since last September, the job market has gained about 900,000 workers. The average workweek has declined, however, equivalent to losing 1 million jobs over the same period, resulting in a net loss of 100,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.
This is just one more sign that meaningful indicators are often buried under less helpful but better-looking numbers.