Job Market’s New Normal: Smaller Workforce, Sluggish Pay

WASHINGTON (AP) -
Mark Flannigan makes a batch of popcorn at the Popcorn Wagon in Pittsfield, Mass. The Popcorn Wagon, owned by Berkshire Bank and operated by Goodwill’s Business 101 program, is used to teach participants the ins-and-outs of business enterprises. Even with steady hiring and a falling unemployment rate, the U.S. job market is not what it used to be.   (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)
Mark Flannigan makes a batch of popcorn at the Popcorn Wagon in Pittsfield, Mass. The Popcorn Wagon, owned by Berkshire Bank and operated by Goodwill’s Business 101 program, is used to teach participants the ins-and-outs of business enterprises. Even with steady hiring and a falling unemployment rate, the U.S. job market is not what it used to be.
(Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)

Even after another month of strong hiring in June and a sinking unemployment rate, the U.S. job market just isn’t what it used to be.

Pay is sluggish. Many part-timers can’t find full-time work. And a diminished share of Americans either have a job or are looking for one.

Yet in the face of global and demographic shifts, this may be what a nearly healthy U.S. job market now looks like.

An aging population is sending an outsize proportion of Americans into retirement. Many younger adults, bruised by the Great Recession, are postponing work to remain in school to try to become more marketable. Global competition and the increasing automation of many jobs are holding down pay.

Many economists think these trends will persist for years despite steady job growth. It helps explain why the Federal Reserve is widely expected to start raising interest rates from record lows later this year even though many job measures remain far below their pre-recession peaks.

“The Fed may recognize that this is a new labor-market normal, and it will begin to normalize monetary policy,” said Patrick O’Keefe, an economist at accounting and consulting firm CohnReznick.

Thursday’s monthly jobs report from the government showed that employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in June and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent from 5.5 percent in May.