February 5, 2010

Green Shoots?

..more like green shots. Oh, I don't know, creme de menthe? Scope? Simple Green? Soylent Green?

The unadjusted unemployment figures for January came out today and it is reported that the rate declined to 9.7 percent which would seemingly be good news save for the fact that gthere are some anomalies in the underlying numbers.

The labor department made the following points about their job numbers, which should be considered in anticipation of the ubiquitous gleeful White house pronouncements:
    • Construction employment declined by 75,000 in January, with nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-48,000) accounting for the majority of the decline. Since December 2007, employment in construction has fallen by 1.9 million.
    • In January, transportation and warehousing employment fell by 19,000, due to a large job loss among couriers and messengers (-23,000).
    • Employment in manufacturing was little changed in January (11,000). After experiencing steep job losses earlier in the recession, employment declines moderated considerably in the second half of 2009. In January, job gains in motor vehicles and parts (23,000) and plastics and rubber products (6,000) offset small job losses elsewhere in the industry.
    • In January, temporary help services added 52,000 jobs. Since reaching a low point in September 2009, temporary help services employment has risen by 247,000.
    • Retail trade employment rose by 42,000 in January, after showing little change in the prior 2 months. Job gains occurred in January among food stores (14,000), clothing stores (13,000), and general merchandise retailers (10,000).
    • Health care employment continued to trend up in January. Ambulatory health care services added 15,000 jobs over the month.
    • In January, the federal government added 33,000 jobs, including 9,000 temporary positions for Census 2010. Employment in state and local governments, excluding education, continued to trend down.
    The last is significant and bears repeating: 33,000 new fed workers of which 9,000 are temporary. Oh yeah, that'll do it. Break out the Cooke's, put the Merlot on ice, lay in a supply of pork rinds, we've turned the corner!

    Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air does his usual tour de force analysis of the numbers:
    It’s not as bad as people feared, but it’s not really good news, either. The bounce in retail suggests that people may be ready to spend, but the declines in most other areas show that there are still fewer of them who can.

    Update: This passage seems like a key to understanding why the rate dropped:

    In January, the number of persons unemployed due to job loss decreased by 378,000 to 9.3 million. Nearly all of this decline occurred among permanent job losers.  (See table A-11.)

    The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up in January, reaching 6.3 million. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of long-term unemployed has risen by 5.0 million. (See table A-12.)

    As before, shrinking the denominator of the population of  jobseekers has the same effect as increasing the nominator of people holding jobs — it decreases the ratio of unemployment to the population.  Also, according to this chart, December’s losses got adjusted to 150,000, not 73,000.  We’re still trending downward.
    Also, a hat tip to Hot Air poster Todler, who provides this quote form CNN:
    The U.S. economy lost 20,000 jobs in January, but the unemployment rate fell to 9.7%, according to a government report released Friday.

    The Labor Department said the economy continued to shed jobs, even as economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected a net gain of 15,000 jobs in December.

    The unemployment rate fell to 9.7% in January, much lower than economists’ forecasts of 10%. It is the lowest rate since August.

    The Labor Department also released an annual revision of U.S. payrolls on Friday, using data that wasn’t initially available. Losses for 2009 alone came to 4.8 million jobs, more than 600,000 more than previously estimated. The revision showed the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007 — 1.4 million more job losses than initially reported.

    The payroll number for December was revised to a net loss of 150,000 jobs. The government had previously indicated that 85,000 jobs were lost in December.
    The only way we lost more jobs in January and had a lower unemployment number is a MASSIVE increase in “discouraged” workers, Todler correctly observed.

    Also, someone in the Purple-lipped Prevaricator's staff has been hacking the definition of "Employed American, me thinks.

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