Highlights:

  • Overall job growth continues into January and at a similar rate as in December
  • For men, the Index rose at a higher rate in January compared to December.
  • The Welch Index for women witnessed a slight increase in January.
  • Index levels-overall and by gender- remain lower than their pre-pandemic levels.

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 adult population’s growth during that period.

For example, over the past 12 months, the Index has fallen 5.4 points, from 103.3 to 97.9. This means the full-time equivalent employment level increased at a rate 5.4% slower than the increase in the U.S. adult population over the past year (after making adjustments for the aging population).

Over the past three years, the overall Index value has declined by 3 points or at an average rate of approximately 1 point per year.  This average rate of decline is an improvement of .4 points relative to what it was in December. Looking by gender, we find that the Index for women is down 2 points while the Index for men is down 3.9 points over the past three years.

Employment Recovery Continues at a higher pace in December

Employment levels have shown steady recovery this year since May after a dramatic decline of 15.4 points between January and April. The pace of recovery was slow in September, October, and November 2020 but improved after that. Similar to December, the Index rose by .3 points from 97.6 to 97.9 over the previous month.

With this continued recovery, the Index has reversed approximately 64% of its sharp decline in April. This reversal rate is approximately over two percentage points higher than in December, three percentage points higher than in October and 12 percentage points higher than in September.

Despite steady recovery over the past few months, the Welch Index remains at its lowest level compared to the previous three years.

Employment Levels Increase for Women and Men in December

Except for a decline in November, men’s employment levels have been steadily increasing since May. This improvement continued into January. Their Index in January rose by .5 points from 94.8 in December to 95.3 in January. With this increase, men have reversed over 63% of their initial 13.8-point decline from January to April.

Employment levels for Women increased by .1 points from 101.0 in December to 101.1 in January. The percentage of the initial 17.3 point decline that women recovered increased slightly from 64% in November, 65% in December to approximately over 66% as of January.

The difference in Index levels between women and men has contracted over the last three months. As of January, the difference was 5.8 points, .4 points lower than what it was in December.  For both genders, January Index levels remained at their lowest compared to the values over the

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find that various sectors and demographic groups continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Manufacturing and Construction witnessed little change in employment over the last month. For others, such as leisure and Hospitality, Retail Trade, Transportation, and Health Care, employment has declined.  The number of reentrants to the labor force also declined in January.

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 adults’ age distribution 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

Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic: In Brief (fas.org)

THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JANUARY 2021 (bls.gov)