2023Q2 Hard Employment Data Confirms BLS Estimates

There’s been a lot of controversy about the accuracy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent job projections, but hard employment data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Earnings released this morning show employment rose over the year in 2023’s second quarter by 2.4%, exactly what the QCEW’s sibling, the Current Employment Statistics, CES, or Establishment Survey is showing. As we know, the QCEW and the CES had been trading places for a few quarters. In the first quarter, the CES was ahead of the QCEW, resulting in the negative annual benchmark, -0.2% overall, and -0.3% private, announced in August.

Average weekly wages, which are notoriously not comparable to average hourly earnings, were up 3.2% year over year, compared to 4.4% gain currently estimated in the Establishment Survey. The QCEW includes many extras in the wage number, and may indicate how much better those with full benefit packages are doing than are those without. That difference may be in line with what we’ve been seeing for some time in the average hourly numbers: production workers have been seeing larger wage gains than have their supervisors.

Nationally, strongest wage gains were reported among natural resources & mining, 6.0%, and construction, 5.6%; weakest gains in financial activities, 2.1%. In half of the ten largest counties weekly wages in finance slipped over the year.

Midland, Texas reported the largest employment increase, 7%, led by a 12% increase in natural resources & mining; Elkhart, Indiana the largest decrease, -7.7%, driven by a 14% decline in manufacturing.

A 24% increase in trade, transportation and utilities wages lifted wages in Clayton, Georgia by 17%, while a 17% loss in earnings in manufacturing drove wages in Elkhart down by 13%. Elkhart has tended to lead national manufacturing over the years.

Jobs rose over the year in all states, with growth ranging from California’s 0.9% to to 3.6% in noisy Alaska, and 3.7% in Florida, 3.8% in New Mexico, and 3.9% in Texas. Alaska, New Mexico and Texas all have large resource extraction operations.

Largest wage gains included 6.1% in West Virginia, 6.5% in New Mexico, and 4.9% in North Dakota, 4.8% in Colorado, and 4.6% in Wyoming, all states with large extraction sectors. Those last three are the only states where wage growth rounds up to five, with growth in Indiana and Pennsylvania lagging at 2.0%, Maryland and Minnesota at 2.2%, and wages actually down over the year in Rhode Island.


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