Highlights:

  • Job growth recovered in July – overall and by gender.
  • The Index levels recovered for women by a higher margin than for men.
  • Index levels–overall and by gender–remain lower than their pre-pandemic levels.

 

Welch Employment Index

Welch Index by Gender

Introduction

The Welch Index is a data analytics tool used by our labor economists to measure full-time equivalent employment after adjustment for population growth and the aging of the workforce. An Index value of 100.0 indicates that the adjusted full-time equivalent employment level is the same as its level at the base period of July 2004.

Any decrease (or increase) in the Index value over a particular period implies that the full-time equivalent employment level has decreased (or increased) relative to the growth of the adult population during that period.

For example, over the past 12 months, the Index has improved 5.8 points, from 93.7 points to 99.5. This means that the full-time equivalent employment level increased at a rate 5.8% faster than the increase in the U.S. adult population over the past year (after making adjustments for the aging of the population).

Over the past 3 years, the overall Welch Index has declined by 2.5 points, or at an average rate of .83 points per year. Looking by gender, we find that the Index for men is down 3.2 points while the Index for women is down 1.7 points over the past three years.  The average rate of decline for men has been worse than that of women.

Employment Levels Recover in July

The overall Index declined dramatically last year when the pandemic first hit. However, since April of 2020, the Index has not experienced a decline in any single month. It has either remained stable or recovered.

During the month of July, it increased to 99.5, up .8 points from 98.7 in June. This is the most the Index has recovered this year.  With this generally stable and steady recovery over the past several months, approximately 75% of the January-April 2020 Index level decline has been recovered. However, the Index would still need to increase by 3.8 points to return to pre-pandemic January 2020 levels.

Employment Levels Increase More for Women than for Men

The Index levels for women increased by 1 point from June to July, from 102.3 to 103.3. For men, the Index increased by a lower margin of .5 points, from 95.9 points in June to 96.4 points in July. The July difference in Index levels between women and men increased by .5 points, from a level of 6.4 in June to 6.9 in July.

With the exception of a decline in June, the Index levels for women have been increasing since April of last year. When the pandemic hit, women’s employment levels declined steeply, from 106.9 in January to 89.6 in April 2020. To return to pre-pandemic January levels, the Welch Index for women would have to increase by 3.6 points.

For men, job growth has experienced a more fluctuating pattern this year. Men have now recovered close to 71% of the initial January-April 2020 decline in Index levels. However, the Index would still need to increase by 4 points to return to 100.4 points–their pre-pandemic level in January 2020.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consultants find that with the roll-out of vaccinations and the reopening of businesses, employment levels have shown a promising recovery through the month of July. Leisure/Hospitality and Education are the two sectors that have contributed most significantly to this recovery.

Technical Note: Full-time equivalent employment equals full-time employment plus one half of part-time employment from the BLS household survey (the Current Population Survey). The data reported for a given month is generally from the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month. The Welch Index adjusts for the changing age distribution of the population by fixing the age distribution of adults to the distribution in the base year of 2004. Seasonal effects for the share of workers employed in part-time jobs are removed in a regression framework using monthly indicator variables.

References

June 2021 jobs report: U.S. adds 850,000 jobs, better than expected (cnbc.com)