The Welch Consulting Employment Index fell 13.6 points in April, from 101.6 to 88.0. This is the lowest value the Index has ever recorded, and is a particularly dramatic fall from the record high of 103.4 set in January 2020.

The Welch Index is a big data analytics consulting tool used by our labor economists that measures full-time equivalent employment after adjustment for population growth and the aging of the workforce. An Index value of 100.0 indicates that adjusted full-time equivalent employment is at the same level as it was in the base year of 2004.

Over the past 12 months the Index has fallen from 102.2 to 88.0. The decrease in the Index over the past year means that full-time equivalent employment has been shrinking relative to the growth of the adult population. Put differently, full-time equivalent employment increased at a rate 14.4% slower than the growth of the adult population over the past year (after making adjustments for the aging of the U.S. adult population). Looking back at the most recent 6 months, the Index fell from 103.2 in October 2019 to 88.0 currently. All of the decline in the past year has occurred in the past two months. The average rate of change over the past three years is a decrease of about 4.2% per year.

In April the Index for women fell 15.6 points, from 105.3 to 89.7, while the one for men fell only 12.0 points, from 98.6 to 86.6. This discrepancy is consistent with findings from academic researchers that indicate that women are more likely to work in occupations and businesses that experienced the largest decreases in employment during the COVID 19 crisis.1 In other words, the larger decrease in female employment reflects gender differences in employment across occupations and industries coupled with the differential impact across the economy of the current crisis. Over the last three years, the Index for women is down 13.5 points while the Index for men is down 12.1 points.

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.

[1] https://bfi.uchicago.edu/working-paper/2020-58/ and https://www.nber.org/papers/w26947.pdf