US non-farm payrolls

This page is about non-farm payrolls, the primary measure of all jobs in the nation. The main question is the trend growth in the overall number of jobs, compared to growth in population.


6 Aug 2014.

The number of jobs (non-farm payrolls) was up 1.9% year-over-year – measurably above the neutral rate of 1.0%, where job growth is keeping up with population growth. However it is discouraging that the YOY change remains (1) very low by the standards of most historical recoveries, and (2) just equal to the eight-year high of 1.9% in February of 2012. (Background).


6 Aug 2014. Data through Jul 2014.

Data from BLS; see sources. The horizontal line shows the neutral growth rate. (Click on graph for a larger image. IE users may want to turn off “automatic image resizing” for a clearer image.)


Clippings below covered through 3 Dec 2010.

US non-farm payrolls background (25 Jun 2009) The non-farm payrolls (NFP) data series, from the BLS, is the best proxy available for total employment in the country, and is thus one of the most basic indicators of the overall employment situation. NFP are based on a monthly sampling, interpreted and reported in a matter of days, against a background of more comprehensive, but less timely, quarterly survey results. The monthly results necessarily involve some extrapolation (including the much-commented “net birth-death adjustment” for new businesses not yet reporting). While these extrapolations are reasonable, the MTM changes are quite noisy, and should not be given too much weight. The YOY change, with a neutral value of 1%, shows more clearly the trend. The YOY change is strongly correlated with, and lags, recession.


From the home page at choose the “Databases and tables” tab; then scroll down to ‘Employment’; then ‘Monthly’; then ‘Employment, Hours, and Earnings - National’ and click on the “Top picks” icon; tick the box for “Total Nonfarm Employment - CES0000000001”, and retrieve; then “more formatting options”; then tick “original data value”, “1 month net change”, “12 months percent change”, “All years”, and click “Retrieve”.

See also

Clippings below were used in the construction of this page

Precision of NFP

22 Feb 2010. Hussman Funds weekly market commentary.

“Notes on a Difficult Employment Outlook. John P. Hussman”

“every month the BLS adds or subtracts a certain amount (from +1.5% to -1.0%) from the raw, non-seasonally adjusted employment figures, in order to provide a final, adjusted employment number that reasonably reflects what they estimate the true “smoothed” employment trend to be. I don't have any real problem with this, as long as everybody understands that this is what they're doing. That said, the current level of payroll employment (NSA) is 127.6 million jobs, so in any given month the seasonal adjustment to the reported payroll employment figure amounts to something between +1.9 million and -1.3 million jobs. If you have any belief at all that the monthly payroll number released on the first Friday of each month is precise, now would be a good time to abandon that illusion.”

Census impact

undated document. BLS.

“Census 2010 temporary and intermittent workers and Federal government employment”

[Table shows significant positive impact during past census years for Mar-May, and significant negative impact for Jun-Sep.]

Clarification on combining NFP and the Census numbers

2 Apr 2010. Calculated risk.

“Diffusion Index and Temporary Help. by CalculatedRisk”

“The Census hiring is reported not seasonally adjusted (NSA), and usually we don't want to mix NSA and SA numbers. The BLS experts explained they don't include the 48K Census hiring in the NSA numbers, and they add the Census numbers in after making the seasonal adjustment. So it is correct to report the headline payroll number was 162K, and 114k (ex-Census).”

Cumulative Census number

3 Dec 2010. Running Census workers report from BLS.

“Census 2010 temporary and intermittent workers and Federal government employment”

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Cumulative 24 39 87 154 564 339 196 82 6 1 0
MTM +9 +15 +48 +66 +411 -225 -143 -114 -77 -5 -1

And here are the corrected month-to-month changes for 2010:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Uncorrected 14 39 208 313 432 -175 -66 -1 -24 172 39
Census contribution +9 +15 +48 +66 +411 -225 -143 -114 -77 -5 -1
Trend 5 24 160 247 21 50 77 113 53 177 40