This Day On The Street
Continue to site
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Unemployment Rate Has Become a Bad Joke

In fact, the participation rate is shrinking, not growing, falling to 64.2 percent, which is an eye-popping 26-year low. That trend makes it even harder to reconcile a drop in the unemployment rate, and also makes laughable the protests of some economists that the paltry 37,000 nonfarm job growth for January was due to weather.

Economists who have held bullish outlooks for the economy are taking notice.

"Never before has such a sharp decline in the unemployment rate been predicated on an ongoing drop in the labor force. The participation rate has crumbled 1.5 (percentage points) since the recovery began," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Neil Dutta and Ethan S. Harris wrote in a research note.

"This labor force detachment tell us two things that should give even the most bullish of market participants room for pause: (1) structural unemployment is rising and (2) the potential rate of growth in the U.S. is slowing."

What's more, those glibly dismissing inflation threats also could be in for a surprise.

"More structural unemployment and weak potential growth imply less slack in the economy and raise an inflation risk," the BofAML team wrote.

Just yesterday, Neal Soss, head of the economics team at Credit Suisse, said the drop in people looking for jobs is unlikely to abate for years.

"One arithmetical consequence of a subdued labor participation rate is that it requires smaller job gains to achieve the same amount of decline in the unemployment rate. Thus, the decline in the jobless rate tends to overstate the improvement in the labor market," he warned clients.

So what's it all mean?

Extrapolating from Soss's analysis, we should be careful how easily we dismiss future rounds of Fed easing, political climate be damned.

"The Fed seems to share our concerns about the mathematical calculation of the unemployment rate and is beginning to downplay the improvement in that statistic in its assessment of America's jobs problem," Soss wrote. "We expect the Fed to maintain its accommodative policy stance until the unemployment rate drops for a good reason: because monthly job gains move to a much higher plateau."

-- Written by Jeff Cox of CNBC
CNBC is a world leader in business news, providing real-time financial market coverage and business information.
2 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Real Money

More than 30 investing pros with skin in the game give you actionable insight and investment ideas.

Product Features:
  • Access to Jim Cramer's daily blog
  • Intraday commentary and news
  • Real-time trading forums
Only $49.95
14-Days Free
14-Days Free
AAPL $93.64 0.00%
FB $118.57 0.00%
GOOG $698.21 0.00%
TSLA $241.80 0.00%
YHOO $36.53 0.00%


Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,891.16 +117.52 0.66%
S&P 500 2,081.43 +16.13 0.78%
NASDAQ 4,817.5940 +42.2360 0.88%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs