Highlights:

  • Job growth continued into September, but at a slower rate than August.
  • September Index levels remained substantially below January, February and March 2020 levels for both men and women individually, as well as the labor force overall.
  • Index values increased for men but declined for women 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 (or increase) in the Index value over a particular period implies that full-time equivalent employment level has decreased (or increased) relative to the growth of the adult population during that period.

Over the past 12 months the Index has fallen 7 points, from 102.9 to 95.9. This means that the full-time equivalent employment level increased at a rate 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 5.2 points, or at an average rate of approximately 1.7 points per year.  This average rate of decline has worsened by .13 points compared to what it was in August.

We find that, due to the onset of the global pandemic and related lockdown measures, this year has experienced the largest decline between January and September compared to the last 3 years. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Welch Index declined between January and September by 1, .7, and .5 points, respectively. In 2020, the Index has declined by 7.5 points over the same period.

Examining these data by gender, we find that the Index for women is down 5.3 points while the Index for men is down 5.1 points over the past three years.

Marginal Employment Recovery through August, but Index Values Remain Below their January Levels

Employment levels have recovered since April, but that recovery slowed between August and September.

The Welch Consulting Employment Index rose .1 points in September, from 95.8 to 95.9.  With the slight yet continued recovery through September, the Index has reversed approximately 51% of its sharp decline in April.

However, just as in August, 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 Men and Decline for Women in September

For men, employment levels continued to recover through September. For women, the employment levels had been steadily recovering between April and August but declined in September.

The Welch index showed that men’s employment levels recovered by .4 points, from a value of 93.4 in August to 93.8 in September. As of August, men had recovered over 48% of the initial 13.9 decline from January to April. With the continued rise, men recovered over 50% of the initial 13.9-point decline by September.

Women experienced a decline in employment, with their index value dropping .2 points, from 98.7 to 98.5, between August and September.  As of August, the employment Index for women had recovered over 52% of the initial 17.3-point decline from January to April.  But given the change over the last month, the recovery rate for women fell to approximately 50% in September.

Yet, the current Index value for men continues to be 4.7 points lower than that of women.

Underlying Factors Behind the Trends and Concluding Remarks

Our economic consulting experts find that the rate at which pandemic restrictions are being lifted has slowed relative to earlier months such as May and June.  Additionally, while the number of people on temporary layoffs has declined, permanent layoffs increased in September. The slow-down in recovery reflects some of these factors.

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

U.S. Job Gains Slow as More Layoffs Become Permanent

Employment Situation Summary