Highlights:

  • Overall job growth continues into November, but at a slower rate than in the previous month.
  • For men, the Index declined between October and November.
  • The Welch Index for women continued to increase between October and November.

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 5.7 points, from 103.1 to 97.4. This means that full-time equivalent employment levels increased at a rate 5.7% 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 3.4 points, or at an average rate of approximately 1.13 points per year.  This average rate of decline is a slight improvement of .1 points compared to its October level.

Given the onset of the pandemic and related lockdown measures, we find that this year has experienced a larger decline between January and November than any of the last 3 years. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Welch Index actually increased between January and November by .7 points, 1 point and .7 points, respectively.  In 2020, the Index declined by 6 points over the same period.

Looking by gender, we find that the Index for women is down 2.6 points while the Index for men is down 4.2 points over the past three years.

Employment Recovery Continues, but at a Slower Pace in November

Employment levels have recovered steadily since April. The pace of recovery slowed down in September but picked up again through October.  This uptick in recovery continued into November, but at a slower pace.

The Welch Consulting Employment Index rose by 1.3 points between September and October and by .2 points between October and November.  With this uptick in recovery, the Index has reversed approximately 61% of its sharp decline in April. This rate of reversal is 2 percentage points higher than the reversal rate in October.

Despite the steady recovery over the past few months, Welch Index levels have not returned to their pre-pandemic levels, remaining far lower.

Employment Levels Increase for Women but Decline for Men in November

For men, the Welch Index declined by .3 points, from 94.8 in October to 94.5 in November.  As of September, men had recovered over 50% of the initial 13.9-point decline from January to April. By October, they had reversed approximately 61% of those declines. However, with the decline in employment levels in November, the reversal of the initial 13.9-point decline that men experienced in April was down to 56.8%.

For women, the Welch Index continued to increase in November, but at a lower rate than in October. It rose 1.8 points between September and October, and .6 points between October and November.  With this steady rise over the last two months, women have recovered close to 64% of the initial 17.3-point decline from January to April.

The difference in Index levels for women and men continued to expand into November. The difference in November was .9 points higher than what it was in October, and 1.7 points higher than what it was in September.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find that the pace of recovery has recently been much slower than what it was in May and June. The initial pace of recovery reflected the reopening of the economy after the lockdown, while in October and November, some businesses are closing once again. Moreover, unemployment among temporary workers has continued to increase. Increase in Covid-19 cases combined with a lack of further government relief has contributed to a slowdown in economic recovery.

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

U.S. labor market losing steam as COVID-19 pandemic rages | Reuters