Monday, February 22, 2010

Horrid Jobs Number Coming

NYT's Floyd Norris is warning on the upcoming jobs number:
It snowed this month in much of the United States. And that may create unnecessary fears that a double-dip recession is upon us.


The Labor Department employment report to be released on March 5 will say that it is for February, but the fine print will say it is for a particular week. Both the household survey (which produces the unemployment rate) and the employer survey (which produces the job count) ask about workers in the week during which the 12th of the month fell.

For February, that was the week of the 7th to the 13th. There were blizzards on the East Coast the previous weekend, and again during the week.

That means that a lot of people who had jobs may report they did not work during the week, and companies may say they had fewer people on the payroll than they would have cited a week earlier or later. If so, we may get a truly horrid job number.
Norris seems to want to downplay the possibility of a double dip because of this number. It should be emphasised that what this means is just that the number is totally useless. It isn't positive, or negative. It is bad data.

How bad can the data get? According to Norris, in January 1996 a blizzard hit. The first report for January said the economy lost 206,000 jobs. Following all the revisions, 19,000 jobs were ultimately recorded as lost in January 1996.

1 comment:

  1. Wenzel - why do you bother with this story? Government data is always and everywhere useless.