Highlights:

  • Job growth continues into October–overall and by gender.
  • For women, the Index increased after a marginal decline between August and September.
  • For men, the recovery continued into October, but at a higher rate than the increase between August and September.

 

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

For example, over the past 12 months, the Index has fallen 6 points–from 103.2 to 97.2. This means that full-time equivalent employment levels increased at a rate 6% slower 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 three years, the overall Index value has declined by 3.7 points, or at an average rate of approximately 1.23 points per year.  This average rate of decline has improved by .5 points compared to what it was in September.

Due to the onset of the pandemic and related lockdown measures, we find that this year has experienced the largest decline between January and October when compared to the last 3 years. In 2017 and 2018 for example, the Welch Index declined between January and October by .8 points and .9 points, respectively. In 2019, the Index value increased by .8 points over the 10 months. In 2020, the Index declined by 6.2 points over the same period.

Examining by gender, we find that the Index for women is down 3.2 points while the Index for men is down 4 points over the past three years.

Employment Recovery Gains Momentum in October

Employment levels have recovered steadily since April. The pace of recovery slowed down in September but picked up again through October.

The Welch Consulting Employment Index rose by 1.3 points between September and October, from 95.9 to 97.2.  This is an increase of 1.2 points, compared to the rise between August and September. With this uptick in recovery, the Index has reversed approximately 59% of its sharp decline in April 2020.

However, similar to the situation in September, we find that this recovery is still not enough to entirely offset the sharp decline that occurred between January and April of this year.

Employment Levels Increase for both Men and Women in October

For men, the Welch Index increased by 1 point, from 93.8 in September to 94.8 in October.  As of September, men had recovered over 50% of the initial 13.9 decline from January to April. With the continued rise, men have now recovered over 61% of the initial 13.9-point decline.

For women, the employment levels had witnessed a marginal decline of .2 points in September compared to the previous month. However, October witnessed a significant improvement. The Index levels for women rose by 1.8 points, from 98.5 in September to 100.3 in the month after.  Women have now recovered close to 58% of the initial 17.3-point decline from January to April.

The difference in Index levels for Women and Men increased by .8 points, from 4.7 in September to 5.5 points in October.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find job recovery rates to be reflective of the fact that pandemic restrictions are being lifted across sectors. However, the pace at which the economy is reopening is not the same as what it was in earlier months such as May and June. The momentum of recovery has thus slowed compared to the initial months after April.  Those on permanent layoffs continue to be a substantial fraction of the unemployed population.

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

The Wall Street Journal – U.S. Job Gains Slow as More Layoffs Become Permanent

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employment Situation Summary