Friday, October 2, 2009

September Unemployment Figures - The Caltrain Metric

Job Losses Far Worse than Expected in September.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 180,000 in September and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent the prior month. The poll was conducted before reports, including regional manufacturing surveys, showed some deterioration in employment measures.

These analysts could have called me and I could have given them the 411. The trains are getting less and less crowded. Ergo, people are losing their jobs. Not exactly a leading indicator but the stats are at best a trailing indicator.

They could have asked another expert, Caltrain's Mike Scanlon.

Via Pat Giorni from the Caltrain JPB meeting.

Shirley and I both noticed the anomoly in this months avg. weekly ridership decline (10.8) and shuttle ridership decline (17.9). Usually they are about the same. Scanlon said that the shuttle number underlines just what he thought...that ridership is down because of unemployment. The shuttles are directly linked to getting workers to their jobs. Shirley and I think bike riders are still employed at a much higher rate. we want to track this a bit, I think, to use as an arguement that more capacity is needed because loyal bikers are still employed and needing space to keep getting to work.

I don't necessarily think the holier than thou cyclists are necessarily staving off unemployment better than anyone else, more likely the bike cars have stayed full because the nominal flow of new ridership in the bike car is not being stunted by excessive bumps due to

1) Added capacity on the trains and
2) Nominally predictable schedule for 2 bike cars.

When he gave the Caltrain Performance report Scanlon added the BOB update:34 Cab cars have been converted and the promise for the scheduled 2-bike car trains has been kept 98.6% of the time during the month of August. There was a problem getting the needed bike racks for the bomb trailers, but they are on the way and the trailers should be completed by early fall 2009. Again he emphisized the point that trailer conversion is above and beyond the original promise.

I made the statement at the February JPB meeting that ridership was about to crater based on my assessment of corporate hiring in SF and the Valley. My Valley statement was based on the Caltrain Metric - basically chatter with folks on the train. Knowledge of employment in SF is the "Mister Mom/Mister Dog Walker" metric provided by visits to the dog park in Noe Valley. I started seeing more women at 7 AM, and my wife started seeing more men at 4 PM. The men (in Noe Valley this mostly comprises investment/finance people) were losing jobs and could go to the park in the PM. The women were going back to work (Nurses primarily) and would take the AM shift on the way to work. This is of course a generalization but there doesn't have to be a lot of data to indicate a trend.

The one set of men not hanging out at the Dog Park at 4 PM? Bankruptcy Lawyers.

Of course, I'm down with the theory that cycling increases your employment viability :)

1 comment:

Jym said...

=v= One variable I haven't seen addressed is whether the shuttle service has been cut back to save money. Companies are cutting back on all sorts of amenities and benefits for employees, so would that be one of them?

If so, more Caltrain riders will need to find another solution to the last mile problem. Bicycling comes to mind.