• Job growth continues to recover in May.
  • The Index levels recovered for both men and women.
  • For women, the recovery in employment levels was higher than that of men.
  • Index levels, overall and by gender, remain lower than their pre-pandemic levels.

Welch Consulting Employment Index May 2021

Welch Consulting Employment Index by gender May 2021


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 improved 8.5 points, from a level of 90.2 to 98.7. This means that full-time equivalent employment level increased at a rate 8.5% 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 three years, the overall Index value has declined by 3 points or at an average rate of 1 point per year. Looking by gender, we find that the Index for men is down 4 points while the Index for women is down 1.9 points over the past three years.  This average rate of decline over 3 years, overall and by gender, is worse than what it was as of April.

Employment Levels Recover in May

The Welch Index generally has been on a path of recovery since the start of this year. It has increased by .8 points between January and May of this year and by .2 points over the previous month of April. Last year when the pandemic first hit, the Index level declined by 13.1 points from 10.3.3 points in January 2020 to to 90.3 points in May, 2020.

The percent of decline that has been recovered till date is close to 64% and in absolute terms, would have to increase by 4.6 points to return to 2020 January levels.

Employment Levels Increase More for Women than for Men

The Welch Index increased by .1 point for men and by .4 points for women between April and May. There has not been any steady pattern of recovery for either of the groups this year. For men, the Index levels marginally declined in February but have been increasing since. For women, the Index levels increased in February, declined in March, remained unchanged in April and have risen again in May.

The index levels for men stood at 95.7 points this month and at 102.4 points for women.  The difference in the Index values between that of women and men increased from 6.4 points in April to 6.7 points in May.

Looking at the levels when the pandemic began, we find that employment levels for men and women had respectively declined by 11.7 points and 14.8 points between January and May of 2020. Women have now recovered close to 70% while men have recovered close to 60% of the decline.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find that with vaccinations and business reopening, the employment levels have generally improved particularly in the Leisure and Hospitality industry. But labor demand has not bounced back at the level that one would have hoped. Several factors including early retirement may be contributing to this slower-than-expected demand.

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 for race is based on individuals who are 20 years old and over. Seasonal effects for the share of workers employed in part-time jobs are removed in a regression framework using monthly indicator variables.

May 2021 Jobs Report: U.S. Adds 559,000 to Payrolls – The New York Times (nytimes.com)