Highlights

  • Job growth remains stable in August.
  • The employment Index levels recovered for men, but declined for women.
  • Index levels–overall and by gender–remain lower than their pre-pandemic levels.

Welch Index by Gender August 2021

Welch Index Graph 2021

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 in the base period of July 2004.

Any decrease (or increase) in the Index value over a particular period implies that full-time equivalent employment levels have 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 3.7 points, from 95.8 points to 99.5. This means that full-time equivalent employment levels increased at a rate 3.7% 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 1.9 points, or at an average rate of .63 points per year. Examining employment rates by gender, we find that the Index for men is down 2.5 points over the past three years, while the Index for women is down 1.2 points over the same period.  The average rate of decline for men has been steeper than that of women.

Employment Levels Remain the Same as in July

The overall Index did not change relative to its July levels. In both July and August, the Index stood at 99.5 points. This is consistent with the general pattern of growth the Index has shown since April 2020. It has not declined since the drop in April of last year, remaining either stable or recovering.

Of the 15.4-point decline between January and April of last year, the Index has recovered close to 75% to date. As in July, a 3.8-point increase is still required to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Employment Levels Declined for Women but Increased for Men

The pattern of employment growth was different in August than in July. In July, the Index recovered for both men and women. The Index levels for women increased by 1 point, from 102.3 in June to 103.3 in July. For men, the Index increased by a lower margin of .5 points, from 95.9 points in June to 96.4 points in July.

In August, however, the Index continued to increase for men but declined for women. For the latter, it went down by .2 points, from 103.3 in July to 103.1 in August. For the former, employment levels increased by .3 points, from 96.4 points in July to 96.7 points in August.

The August difference in Index between women and men shrunk by the same margin that it had increased by in July, by .5 points, from a level of 6.9 in July to 6.4 in August.

The Index for men declined for the first time since February of this year. Employment levels for men have now recovered close to 73% of last year’s January-April decline. Women, however, have shown a largely steady improvement over the last several months. They have by now recovered close to 78% of last year’s 17.8-point January-April decline.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find that with vaccinations rolling out and businesses reopening, employment levels have generally shown promising growth over the last several months. However, August did not experience any recovery compared to what was seen in July. Leisure and Hospitality, in particular, showed more modest growth than one would have expected. This temporary stagnation may be a result of the Delta variant of the coronavirus pandemic causing closures and reductions in consumption within the hospitality industry.

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:
Jobs report August 2021 shocker: Only 235,000 new jobs (cnbc.com)