Line chart, tracking nonfarm workers
Y-axis: Millions; x-axis: 2006 – 2021.
Total workers: 135 million Jan. 31 2006, declined to 130 million by Feb. 26, 2010, and then rose steadily to roughly 152.5 million by February 2020. By the end of April, total workers had fallen to near 130.3 million, but by year-end workers increased to over 140 million. At the beginning of September 2021 total workers stood over 147 million.
Recessions: December 2007 – June 2009, February – April 2020.
Line chart, unemployment and underemployment
Y-axis: Rate (%); x-axis: 2006 – 2021.
Recessions: December 2007 – June 2009 and February – April 2020
Underemployment rises to near 23% from about 7% at the beginning of the recession which began in February, unemployment to near 15% from about 3.5%. By the end of September 2021, unemployment stood at 4.8% and underemployment at 8.5%.
Line chart compares hires and job openings. Y-axis: Millions of workers SA; x-axis: 2006 – 2021.
Hires generally exceed job openings initially, and during the 2008 – 2009 recession, that gap reached nearly a million workers. By 2013 lines tracking job openings and hires begin to intersect. By 2015 openings clearly exceed hires until, by late October 2019, that gap expanded to nearly 1.9 million. Recently, however, job openings have trended downward, reaching 6.9 million in early 2020, (down from 7.3 million in October 2019) with hires at about 5.5 million (about flat with February 2020 month-end hires). Hires then fell to roughly 3.8 million and job openings to roughly 5 million in April before both rebounded somewhat to about 6.2 million hires and 5.4 million job openings by the end of May 2020. In late August job openings were near 6.5 million and hires were near 5.3 million. By late November job openings remained near 6.5 million and hires were near 5.6 million. As of February 2021, job openings had risen to 7.4 million and hires had fallen to about 5.4 million. By the end of July 2021 job openings had risen again to over 10.9 million with hires over 6.1 million.
Line chart showing total employed as a % of population.
Y-axis: Percent; x-axis: 2006 – 2021.
Recessions: 2008 – June 2009 and 2020
While roughly 66% of the population was employed from 2006 to 2008, the 2008 – 2009 recession saw a decline to nearly 65.5%. Post-recession, the decline continued to a low below 62.5% in 2015, recovering to nearly 63.4% in February 2020 but declining to a low of 60.2% in April, then recovering somewhat to 61% at year-end. As of early September 2021, the rate stood at about 61.7%.
Sources: Bloomberg and Wells Fargo Investment Institute. Monthly data from January 1, 2006 to September 30, 2021. JOLTS: monthly data from January 1, 2006 to July 31, 2021. JOLTS = Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Shaded area represents a U.S. economic recession. SA = seasonally adjusted.
- Job openings exceed unemployment by over 2 million people, highlighting labor shortages restraining growth. Our view is that job gains will get an added lift from economic growth led by labor-intensive services industries.
- We expect strong job gains supported by strong economic growth and moderating labor shortages to lower the unemployment rate by more than two percentage points by the fourth quarter of 2021, compared to a year ago.