Here is an interesting email from “Klaus” in response to Economists Surprised Again as German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall

Hey Mish,

I have a German friend visit whose family owns a small manufacturing company that makes the machinery to clean and refurbish commercial concrete forms.

This is his story: a few years ago business was steady and they had about 12 employees. They didn’t really see any slowdown in 2008. Moreover, 2009 was a bit of a boom year and they staffed up to about 15. That lasted for a while, but this spring (May) business fell off a cliff.

They are now down to about 3 people, the rest are on ‘Kurzarbeit’ (translated: ‘short work’), which is essentially a way to keep people on payroll while slashing their hours and pay.

A quick search shows ‘Kurzarbeit’ is being hailed as a model for other countries to follow. This makes me wonder how much ‘Kurzarbeit’ is masking unemployment problems in the US.


Kurzarbeit in the US

Hello Klaus, thanks for the report and thanks for your question. I am quite certain Europe will slow much more than the mainstream talking heads realize.

In the US, “on Kurzarbeit” is known as “part time for economic reasons“.

If you work as much as 1 hour you are considered employed.

Part-time census workers alone added 411,000 jobs in May. 225,000 of those jobs went away in June as noted in Jobs Decrease by 125,000, Rise by 100,000 Excluding Census; Unemployment Rate Drops to 9.5%; A Look at the Details

Table A-8 Part Time Status

click on chart for sharper image

The above table shows we have 8,627,000 “on Kurzarbeit”.

Those “Not in the Labor Force”

Moreover, those “not in the labor force” rose by a whopping 842,000 in a single month. In the last 3 months, those “not in the labor force” rose from 82.6 million to 83.9 million, an increase of 1.3 million.

In the US, if you want a job, but do not report you looked for a job, you are not a part of the labor force and therefore are not considered unemployed. This explains how the unemployment rate dropped.

Most of those not in the labor force are under the age of 16, retired, or in prison. However, there are 2.6 million workers who want a job but did not look for a job in the last 4 weeks. The euphemism for this sorry state of affairs is not unemployed, but rather “marginally attached“.


If you add up the marginally attached and part-time for economic reason workers and add those totals to the official unemployment rate, you arrive 16.5%. That number is a more reasonable approximation of unemployment misery than the “official” number. We label that total “U-6“.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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