Anybody else struggling to decipher this morning’s jobs report?
A mixed bag may be the best way to describe today’s employment data. Economy lost 20,000 jobs in January, according to companies and governments surveyed by Labor Dept., representing a cause for concern for optimistic folks hoping to kick off 2010 with some job growth. But the unemployment rate dipped to 9.7%, as households surveyed said 541,000 more jobs were created last month.
So, 20,000 jobs lost or 541,000 jobs created? Tough to say which indicator is more reliable. Ask ten economists and they’ll give you 11 different responses.
But Princeton economist Paul Krugman may have summed up today’s data best: job growth is essentially flat and the rest is noise. Two separate surveys compiled the data and both are subject to significant statistical sampling errors.
“When employment growth is near zero, on either side, it’s not that surprising that the surveys should point in opposite directions,” he says. “The bottom line is that economic numbers are no more than rough indicators. You have been warned.”