Charts show signs of peak employment?

I came across this chart the other day.

Wallace April Employment 2013-05-23


It’s showing that the current “recovery” still hasn’t gotten the number of jobs up to where it was before the recession. And that this is historically unusual, at least looking as far back as 1947. It reminds me of the 16 year chart of the S&P index, which appears to show a ceiling at a certain level. It makes me wonder if we’re seeing peaks left and right–oil supply, stock market, employment?

16 year SPY

I shared the top chart with a colleague who wondered aloud about how the employment numbers look when compared to the overall population of working people. General unemployment statistics are hard to interpret since people who don’t find work within 18 months are dropped from being counted as unemployed (clever trick!), which leads me to look at the number of overall jobs as a potentially more meaningful statistic.

I visited FRED, the free online statistics website, and got data to create the following chart:

employment gap


Although FRED currently only has the US population of working age stats out to 2011, it paints an interesting story in terms of the gap between the number of people and the number of jobs.

On the one hand, there will always be a gap because of factors like people who work but aren’t counted as employed, people who are too disabled to work, people who don’t have to work for a living, and so on. But in any case the trend of the gap is valuable to look at.

The US working age population seems to be continuing up on a smooth line, while the number of jobs seems to have plateaued. If that’s the case, then we should expect to see the ride line above, % gap, continue to grow in the coming years.

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