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.
Strong earnings don't necessarily translate into a burgeoning labor market, but taking a pulse of small business in the country may highlight a sector that slowly is pushing the country back towards the Federal Reserve's unemployment target of 6.5%. Steven Raz of Cornerstone Search Group, a recruitment firm for the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, says since a year ago there has been significant improvement in hiring. "We also have relationships with some other firms in other industries, and really across the board we're hearing the same things from other firms too that everyone is pretty busy and there's definitely an uptick in hiring," said Raz, who is managing partner at Cornerstone Search Group. Smaller businesses are hiring because many of them have already gone through years of cost-cutting and restructuring to the point where they must begin adding to payrolls in order to fulfill business operations, Raz said. Micro businesses -- those that employ one to 19 individuals -- have been pushing up jobs data as many of them operate in growing services sectors. Democrats and Republicans have remain muted about the slow labor recovery. The White House issued on Friday its boiler plate statement that employment is improving but "more work remains to be done."
"I think if Mitt Romney had been elected you would have immediately -- businesses would have felt like the government wasn't their enemy, that the government was there to assist them," Roe told TheStreet in a phone interview. "I think perception has a lot