The key to the U.S. getting back on track economically is for its citizens to freely walk the earth again without the existential threat of COVID-19. The U.S. is getting closer and closer to meeting that goal, while other countries are still trying to control the virus. Before the successful vaccination program, I targeted Aug. 31, 2021, as the launching point for when we can fully achieve this, with the mindset that all jobs lost to COVID would be back online by September 2022 or earlier. Despite the last sub-par jobs report, we are currently on track to satisfy that prediction as we should be able to walk the earth freely before the end of August. This is the furthest thing from a housing crash that we could expect.
In February 2020, we had 152,523,000 nonfarm payroll workers, which isn’t all the workers in America, but most of them. Today, in May 2021, we have 144,308,000 nonfarm payroll folks working.
In the previous expansion, which was the longest economic and job expansion in history, the all-time high for job openings was 7,574,000. Today we have roughly 7,367,000 job openings and that number should get to 10 million by the end of this new expansion. As you can see with the chart below, not only has the housing data performed much better during this crisis, but job openings are roughly 5.5 million higher today than the worst levels of the great financial crisis.
We do have a pathway to get back to the employment numbers we had in February 2020 prior to COVID-19, but until that happens (September 2022 or earlier) don’t expect the Federal Reserve to hike the federal funds rate anytime soon. We will most likely need to see the employment to population ratio for prime-age workers get back to 80% before that happens. That metric is currently at 76.9% and tends to be sticky.