Public statements don’t tell whole story on job numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes both seasonally adjusted employment numbers and raw unadjusted numbers. Federal officials usually use the seasonally adjusted numbers in their comments as they did today. A look at the raw numbers gives a different picture than the one given by some government spokesmen.

Here are excerpts from the statement of Keith Hall, Commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics. His comments are in bold and mine, using raw, unadjusted numbers, follow in italics:

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 200,000 in December, and the unemployment rate, at 8.5 percent, continued to trend down.

Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 219,000 in December, and the unemployment rate, at 8.3 percent, rose slightly from 8.2 percent in November.

Private-sector job gains totaled 212,000 in December and 1.9 million over the year.

Private-sector job losses totaled 80,000 in December but gains were 1.9 million over the year.

Government employment changed little over the month but fell by 280,000 over the year.

Government employment increased 7,000 over the month but fell by 261,000 over the year.

Here are excerpts from the statement of Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. It also was issued today. My comments, with raw, unadjusted numbers, are in italic:

Private sector payrolls increased by 212,000 jobs and overall payroll employment rose by 200,000 jobs in December.

Private sector payrolls decreased by 80,000 jobs and overall payroll employment declined by 219,000 jobs in December.

The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February 2009.

The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 8.3 percent.

The drop in unemployment over the month was mostly due to employment growth, not lower labor force participation.

The increase in unemployment over the month was due in part to a drop in the labor force participation rate from 63.9 to 63.8 percent. While the number of employed decreased by 389,000 rose by 611,000, the number of unemployed rose by 79,000.

The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 percentage point in the last 12 months.

The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.8 percentage point in the last 12 months.

Both raw and unadjusted numbers can be found on Tables A-1 and B-1, released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NOTE: Prior to joining the John Locke Foundation I was deputy director of the Labor Market Information Division of the N.C. Employment Security Commission, and oversaw North Carolina’s BLS programs.

 

 

Reader Comments

  • Thanks so much for putting this together, Don. As you put it so plainly, the seasonal-versus-unadjusted comparison is vulnerable to misleading presentations. Unfortunately, most media outlets parrot the official version, seasonally adjusted or not, as unquestionable. Of course, the accuracy of reporting and how unemployment is defined are two additional problems that merit our consideration.