Does population slowdown = unemployment slowdown?

December 22, 2010, 12:55 AM UTC

Late last year, Goldman Sachs said in a note that “it will probably take at least 100,000 jobs per month just to hold the unemployment rate constant.”

This was largely based on demographic data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and since has become a favorite talking point of pundits like George Will (particularly when monthly jobs reports come in south of 100k).

What we learned today, however, is that U.S. population growth is slowing. New census figures show a 9.7% growth rate, compared to the 13.2% mark reported ten years earlier. In fact, it’s the slowest growth rate since 1940.

This led me to wonder if that 100,000 per month figure will get revised downward. After all, overall population growth rates must have been a central part of the original calculation.

So I rang up Joseph Seneca, a Rutgers professor who has focused recently on job trends. He said that overall population trends could indeed have an impact, but far more important are the underlying demographic trends (age, immigration/emigration, etc.).  That data, unfortunately, won’t be released until sometime next quarter.

His assumption, however, was that the 100,000 per month figure would remain relatively stable. How come? Because he believes that much of the slowdown is based on a recession-prompted drop in birth rates, kind of like what was experienced in the 1930s (the last Census with this slow a population growth rate was 1940).

Again, we’ll know more next year…