How Are They Doing Now? : The Indicator from Planet Money We look at three groups that got hammered especially hard during the recession and ask: How are they doing now?
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How Are They Doing Now?

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How Are They Doing Now?

How Are They Doing Now?

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CARDIFF GARCIA, HOST:

I'm Cardiff Garcia. This is THE INDICATOR, Planet Money's quick take on the news. It's jobs day.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR HORN)

GARCIA: The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its big monthly jobs report today. It's a big deal for us economics geeks. Here at THE INDICATOR, we're nothing if not econ-geeky. But the monthly numbers tend to bounce around a lot. So today on the show, we're taking the long view. We look at three groups that got hammered especially hard during the recession, and we ask how are they doing now.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

GARCIA: I talked about the jobs numbers with labor economist Betsey Stevenson. She's actually the former chief economist at the Department of Labor. So when it comes to scrutinizing jobs data, she has got serious form. And the first group of workers we talked about was part-time workers who would rather be full time.

BETSEY STEVENSON: Anytime you go into a recession, employers start to cut back on their labor costs. And they can do that in two ways. They can let people go, or they can cut back people's hours. And, you know, the recession we just experienced was the deepest recession since the Depression. And as a result, we saw not only did a lot of people lose their jobs, but a lot of people had hours cut back.

GARCIA: And since about the middle of 2010, as the economy has recovered, things have gotten a lot better for these workers. The share of the labor force working part time who want to be working full time has fallen to 3.1 percent. And that is our first INDICATOR, by the way. And it's pretty good. And yet, it's not back to where it was before the recession. So there's still a good chance that more of these workers will go full time again if the economy stays healthy. The second issue Betsey and I discussed was one that's been in the news lately.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This morning, President Trump firing back at Jay-Z for these remarks.

GARCIA: Here's a sentence I never imagined I'd say for all kinds of reasons. President Donald Trump had an argument with Jay-Z about African-American unemployment. The president said that African-American unemployment was at an all-time low. That is no longer true after today's jobs report, which showed that the African-American unemployment rate went up in January and is now at 7.7 percent. And that's our second INDICATOR - 7.7 percent. What is true is that this number has been mostly declining since 2011. And it's way, way down from where it was right after the recession.

STEVENSON: When there's a whole bunch of workers out there, it is easier for employers who want to discriminate because they've got a lot of people to choose among.

GARCIA: Today, employers are fighting with each other over workers. There just aren't as many potential workers out there to choose from, and that makes it harder for companies to discriminate.

STEVENSON: It's really hard for an employer to be discriminatory today. And so part of what happens is, you know, a tight labor market makes people rethink their prejudices. There isn't anybody else. You need to get over it.

GARCIA: Now, obviously competing for workers doesn't make every employer stop discriminating. And the unemployment rate for African-Americans is still almost twice as high as the overall unemployment rate. Betsey says that could partly be due to where people live, educational differences but also discrimination.

And the last group that Betsy and I discussed was people without college degrees. And in the U.S., that's the majority of people. It's two-thirds of adults that don't have a college degree. So our third indicator - 4.5 percent, the unemployment rate for people with high school degrees but no college experience. That is way better than it was a few years ago but still not quite as low as before the recession. And by comparison, college grads now have an unemployment rate of 2.2 percent. And it never went up as much for college grads in the first place.

STEVENSON: One of the things education does is it just gives you more choices in terms of what kind of work you can do and be reasonably good at - good enough that an employer wants to hire you to do it. And those increased options mean that you have more options for employment.

GARCIA: When the economy is weak, and there are fewer jobs to go around, college graduates end up going after some of the same jobs as high school graduates - even jobs that don't require a college degree. And the college graduates are just more likely to get hired. But now that there are more jobs being created, that competition between workers is easing up, and the difference between college grads and high school grads is shrinking.

A quick word about the data - the jobs report is formally called the Employment Situation Report. You can find it at bls.gov. That's the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And we've added a few links and charts to THE INDICATOR's website, which you can find at npr.org/money. Finally, this podcast is produced by Darius Rafieyan and edited by Jacob Goldstein. Thanks for listening. And have a great weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

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