U.S. Employment Gains Help Stocks Pare Losses


A bearish trend in U.S. equities was disrupted last Friday on better U.S. employment data, but a recent study on income and poverty shows better employment is benefiting men more than women and unmarried households over married ones.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an increase of 248,000 jobs in September, while employment for August was revised up from a gain of 142,000 to a gain of 180,000. The headline unemployment rate fell below 6% for the first time since the financial crisis of 2008, reaching levels last seen in 2004.

While unemployment is down with more jobs, the gains have not made up for population growth in the United States, which has driven the labor participation rate to below 63%. Labor participation rates fell below 63% in late 2013 and have remained below that point for most of 2014, far below the pre-recession high of 66%. The labor participation rate has not been this low since 1978.

Additional pressure to the labor participation rate has come from the growing rate of retirement amongst baby boomers, which has driven more elderly people out of the workforce and keeping the ratio of employment to population at extremely low levels. The employment to population ratio remains at 59%, the same rate as the prior month and lower than the 61% rate seen throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

A decline in the labor participation rate has added deflationary pressures to the U.S. economy, driving long-term bond yields lower. The 10-year U.S. Treasury fell to 2.44% in Friday trading.

Census Report: Family Incomes Stagnate

Median family incomes in the United States barely grew in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The study showed that family median incomes rose less than one percent from 2012 to 2013.

The data also showed some surprising trends that indicate marriage is hindering, rather than helping, individuals’ incomes to rise. The biggest gains came to families with one male breadwinner and no wife, who saw their incomes grow 2.6% year-over-year in 2013. Unmarried and separated women who lead households also saw incomes rise 1.9% year-over-year, over double the gains enjoyed in married households.

More distressingly, married households saw their incomes decline 0.4% year-over-year in 2013.

Men Lose Ground in New Economy

The Census Bureau also showed in their study that single women were seeing wages stagnate while men were losing money. Although men are seeing their incomes shrink, the median pay of female households remained lower than pay for single men, due mostly to female under-representation in higher-paying industries like engineering and finance.

According to the Census study, single women saw their incomes rise 0.1% in 2013 compared to the prior year, from a median of $26,394 to $26,425. Men saw their incomes shrink from $37,527 to $36,876, for a decline of 1.7% in nominal terms and even higher in inflation-adjusted terms.

The study also showed that men were 12.2% more likely to work than women and 34.8% more likely to be working full-time and year-round.