It is laughable that everyone believes the labour market in the U.S.A. is improving. Lost in the debate over the weather impact was the benchmark revision to 2010 — overstated by 215k or 24%. The U.S. economy generated 909k jobs last year, which works out to just under 76k per month. That is insignificant considering that the population grew around 160k per month. The level of U.S. employment today stands at 130.265 million, which is where it was in January 2003.
The data from the Household survey are truly insane. The labour force has plunged an epic 764k in the past two months. The level of unemployment has collapsed 1.2 million, which has never happened before. People not counted in the labour force soared 753k in the past two months.
These numbers are simply off the charts and likely reflect the throngs of unemployed people starting to lose their extended benefits and no longer continuing their job search (for the two-thirds of them not finding a new job). These folks either go on welfare or they rely on their spouse or other family members or friends for support.
Meanwhile, it does look like real weekly earnings contracted in January for the third month in a row — that last occurred from April-June of 2009. Once the payroll tax cut effect fades and material cost pressures come to bear with a lag in margins the retail space will be squeezed hard.
Saving the day now are the payroll tax cuts but this effect wears off in Q2.