Real U-3 Unemployment Rate When Adjusted For Labor Force Participation: Around 14%
When it comes to pointless (and bullish) reversion to the mean exercises,it seems nobody has a problem with saying stocks have to go back to 1,500 just because that's where they were, and the unemployment rate has to go back to 5% cause that's how we know the Fed is the immaculate and flawless piece of art it is, and always gets things under control to near-peak efficiency. Well, here at Zero Hedge we (again) decided to take the reversion to the mean approach and flip it, instead applying it to a deteriorating indicator, the labor force participation rate. The first chart below demonstrates the LFP rate, which a derivative of the chart we presented earlier, has now plunged to the lowest level in over 25 years, or 64.6% (gotta go back to December 1984 for the first time this was passed). So we decided to "normalize" the LFP by keeping it at the peak achieved at the turn of millennium, or December 1999, when it hit a peak of 67.1%. Now as everyone knows the US population has been soaring since then, and with the cost of living increasing ever more with each day, and as more and more family members are forced to join the work pool, it makes sense that in a normal economy, the LFP should continue rising instead of declining. We thus kept it constant at the 67.1% level (instead of doing the conservative thing and pushing it higher along the trendline), and ran the unemployment numbers through, assuming this part of the jobless equation was constant. To our surprise, we found that the U-3 rate (not the U-6), which today was supposed to be 9.5%, in fact turns out to be 13.0% as of July: an all time record save for the 13.6% recorded in December 2009. And if instead we use the trendline number of a 68.5% LFP rate, the unemployment rate today would be 14.7%. In retrospect we sympathize with Christina Romer's decision to get the hell out of Dodge.
Reported and adjusted labor force participation rate:
Running these numbers through the actual unemplyment calculation, reveals the following: while assuming a declining LFP rate we obviously get the 9.5% unemployment rate, assuming a peak 67.1% LFP results in a 13.0% unemployment rate. And if the labor force participation rate were to grow according to trendline, the jobless rate in the US today would have been reported at 14.7%, just about where the U-6 was reported, but based on an entirely different methodology.