In economics, it can often seem that nothing happens for years at a time, only for years’ worth of change to happen all at once. The economy, in other words, can seem stable – or even boring – until suddenly it is not. In Idaho, for example, the changes in total nonfarm employment in April, May and June 2020 exceeded (in absolute terms) all the changes that occurred from 2015 to the end of 2019. Owing to the pandemic shock of COVID-19, three months saw more volatility in Idaho’s labor market than the preceding four years.
When economic events gain velocity, especially in the face of a serious recession, a variety of labor market indicators take on new importance, especially those updated monthly or even weekly, rather than quarterly or annually. Several labor market indicators can add to a real time understanding of economic conditions as a supplement to the Department of Labor’s headline statistics like unemployment rates and nonfarm employment numbers.