Equities have soared in 2013, led by the Dow's 14% tear, the S&P's 13% gain and the Nasdaq's 12% jump. A narrow spotlight on Friday's headlines may suggest equities and the labor market are correlated, but a dive into the rest of the employment situation reveals the slow transformation. In April, hourly wages rose just 4 cents to $23.87, and the average work week showed a 0.2 hour dip to 34.4 hours. The seasonally adjusted U-6 total unemployed rate, which includes unemployed, underemployed and part time, rose to 13.9% from March's 13.8%. For broader context, the U-6 rate was 14.5% in April 2012. "There has been progress in the last six months, in the last 12 months; it's just that it is achingly slow given how far away from full employment we are," Gary Burtless, a labor economist at Brookings Institution, said in a phone call from Washington D.C. "So if you're unemployed I guess there's no reason to break out the champagne."
The labor force participation rate -- civilians who are employed or actively seeking work -- remained unchanged in April at 63.3%, but has ticked lower from 63.6% in January. A peak at the Bureau of Labor Statistics's participation rate since 2003 reveals a deep decline in the participation rate, which continues to bode poorly for the unemployed.