Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Maybe it's time to throw out the unemployment rate

Breaking down Friday's blockbuster jobs report

Yes, Friday's jobs report was good. But was it really that good?

The headline number of 248,000 new positions reflected slightly above-trend growth for 2014, so that was good.

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Yet, the drop in the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent came largely because more Americans are still leaving the labor force, raising questions over whether the headline rate can still be considered a useful gauge of jobs market health.

Also wages were flat and the average workweek grew little.

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While Wall Street may like the report, there's still more work to do, with the Federal Reserve left to sort out the good from the bad and decide where to go from here policy-wise.

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"If you just look at the employment to population ratio, it's flat at 59" percent, said Susan Woodward, economist at Intuit, a software company that monitors small-business trends. "One of the things we need to see in a real recovery is an increase in construction activity. We should be seeing 1.8 million or so houses a year, and we're still languishing down around one million."

The economy "is doing better, and it's doing a little better than we thought."

Still the report, as usual, raises several questions about the state of the labor market. The above video takes a closer look at the numbers.

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