Employment, pre- and post-Covid

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Comparing job growth before and after the Covid pandemic, attempting to remove the effect of the pandemic.

In a Facebook discussion, someone complained about President Biden’s claim of large job growth during his term, noting it is deceptively exaggerated by using pandemic-era lows as a starting point. It’s a legitimate question. I asked how anyone could produce a comparison that removed or diminished the effect of the pandemic, but I didn’t receive a specific response that I could use in an analysis.

I decided to create two periods of time: Pre- and post-pandemic. I ended the first period when the trend of job levels was its highest level before the pandemic. I started the second period when the jobs level returned to the pre-pandemic level. Both private and nonfarm job levels reached pre-pandemic highs in February 2020. Both returned to values close to that level around June 2022. Graphically, this is shown in Chart 1, using nonfarm jobs. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics (CES).

Table 1 shows the results of an analysis that produced the average monthly change in jobs for three sectors: Nonfarm, private sector, and government. I used nonfarm as that is the sector most commonly cited in monthly jobs reports and discussion. I used the other two sectors based on recommendation from the Facebook discussion. I started the first period of job trends with February 2017, as that was the first full month of the Trump Administration, and ended the second period with February 2024.

I asked someone (something) to explain this table:

This table can be used to analyze employment trends over time and to compare the growth or changes in employment across different sectors. Notably, the Government sector saw a relatively higher percentage increase during the second period compared to the first, and the overall monthly change rates for all sectors were higher in the second period than in the first. This could indicate a faster pace of job creation or recovery during the second period. (emphasis added)

There may be other ways to carry out this analysis.

The full explanation I received from ChatGPT is this:

The table you’ve shared is presenting data on employment changes over two distinct periods for all employees in the United States, with numbers in the thousands and seasonally adjusted. It is broken down by sector: Nonfarm, Private, and Government.

First Period (Feb 2017 – Feb 2020)
* Over 36 months, the Nonfarm sector employment level rose from 145,848 to 152,309 (an increase of 6,461 or 4.4%).
* The Private sector saw an increase from 123,522 to 129,442 (an increase of 5,920 or 4.8%).
* Government sector employment increased from 22,326 to 22,867 (an increase of 541 or 2.4%).
* The average monthly employment change was calculated for each sector, with Nonfarm at 179.5 (0.12% monthly), Private at 164.4 (0.13% monthly), and Government at 15.0 (0.07% monthly).

Second Period (Jun 2022 – Feb 2024)
* Over 20 months, Nonfarm employment rose from 152,348 to 157,808 (an increase of 5,460 or 3.6%).
* The Private sector increased from 130,233 to 134,628 (an increase of 4,395 or 3.4%).
* Government sector employment increased from 22,115 to 23,180 (an increase of 1,065 or 4.8%).
* For this period, the average monthly employment change was higher than the first period, with Nonfarm at 273.0 (0.18% monthly), Private at 219.8 (0.17% monthly), and Government at 53.3 (0.24% monthly).

I submitted the same prompt and data to Gemini, which is Google’s latest AI model:

Table Sections

The table analyzes employment changes within the US economy across two distinct periods:
* Period 1: February 2017 to February 2020 (a 36-month span)
* Period 2: June 2022 to February 2024 (a 20-month span)

The table focuses on three key employment sectors:
* Nonfarm: All US jobs excluding agricultural work.
* Private: Jobs in the private sector (businesses, not government).
* Government: Jobs in federal, state, or local government entities.

Data and Calculations

For each period, the table provides the following information:
* Employment Level: The total number of employed individuals (in thousands) within each sector at the start and end dates of the period.
* Change over [period length]: The net increase or decrease in employment within each sector over the specified time period.
* % Change over [period length]: The percentage change in employment, reflecting growth or decline.
* Average Monthly Change: The average change in jobs per month during the period.
* % Average Monthly Change: The average monthly change expressed as a percentage. This helps compare growth rates across sectors, even if the periods have different durations.

Observations and Insights

  • Overall Growth: There’s a general trend of employment growth across all sectors in both periods.
  • Private Sector Leads: The private sector consistently shows higher employment growth in both absolute numbers and percentages compared to the government sector.
  • Faster Recovery After June 2022: The average monthly change in the second period is significantly higher than in the first period. This suggests a faster pace of job recovery in the more recent period (post-pandemic).
  • Spike in Government Jobs: The government sector experiences the highest percentage increase in the second period (4.8%). This might indicate greater government hiring or investment in public services during that timeframe.

Important Note: This table offers a snapshot of employment trends. There could be various economic, social, or policy-related factors driving these changes that go beyond the scope of this table alone.

Anthropic just released a new version of Claude. It produced this response.

This table shows employment data in the United States over two different periods – a 36-month period from February 2017 to February 2020, and a 20-month period from June 2022 to February 2024.

The data is broken down into three sectors: Nonfarm (total employment excluding farm workers), Private sector, and Government sector. The employment levels are provided in thousands of employees, and the data is seasonally adjusted.

For each period, the table shows:

  • Employment Level at the start and end dates
  • Change in employment over that period in absolute numbers and percentage
  • Average monthly change in employment in absolute numbers and percentage

Looking at the first period (Feb 2017 – Feb 2020):

  • Total nonfarm employment increased by 6,461,000 jobs or 4.4%
  • Private sector added 5,920,000 jobs (4.8% increase)
  • Government sector added 541,000 jobs (2.4% increase)

The average monthly job growth was 179,500 (0.12%) for total nonfarm, with private sector growing at 0.13% per month and government at 0.07%.

In the second period (Jun 2022 – Feb 2024):

* Total nonfarm employment increased by 5,460,000 jobs or 3.6%
* Private sector added 4,395,000 jobs (3.4% increase)
* Government sector added 1,065,000 jobs (4.8% increase)

The pace of job growth picked up with an average monthly increase of 273,000 (0.18%) for total nonfarm, with private growing at 0.17% per month and government at 0.24% per month.

So in summary, this data shows the employment trajectory in the U.S. over these two periods, with growth rates and sectoral breakdowns highlighted.

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