The pace of churn is tied to the unemployment rate–which, in turn, is tied to business and employer confidence–and generally moves in the same direction as the headline rate. But while both have shown slow, steady improvement over the past three years, churn has risen much more slowly, as the above graph indicates. That glacial pace of improvement provides a more accurate snapshot of the recovery.
“The unemployment rate is overstating improvements right now because so many people are dropping out” of the labor force, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute.
The difference is in the denominators. Unemployment is measured by dividing the number of people out of work by the number working and seeking work, also known as the labor force. When people give up looking for work, they drop out of the labor force, shrinking the denominator and bringing down the unemployment rate more rapidly than it would decline through job creation alone.