The media-driven focus on the (inevitably revised) monthly non-farm payroll numbers has always seemed a bit misplaced to us. The employment picture matters enormously, of course, but more in terms of its medium- and long-term trends than its short-term vicissitudes.
Which makes the following charts all the more disconcerting. Note that the total/absolute NFP number has now fallen back to levels first reached nine years ago. In the second chart, you'll see that at no time in the last 50 years has the absolute NFP number fallen so far below its long-term trend.
Given persistent population growth, the economy has to create lots of new jobs just to keep the employment rate steady. The job losses of the last two years have made it all the more difficult to return to the long-term trendline.
A new normal? Unfortunately, for a while at least, it looks like the answer is yes.
Bob Willis, "September Job Losses Exceed Forecast," Bloomberg, October 2nd, 2009