Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 4, 2009

BEST JOB NUMBERS SINCE THE RECESSION BEGAN.... Waiting for the monthly job numbers to be released this morning, I saw the New York Times homepage run a headline that said the "economy shed 11,000 jobs in November." I assumed, in all sincerity, it was a typo.

After all, there were plenty of estimates on what to expect. The most optimistic number I saw was 130,000 job losses; the most pessimistic was 169,000 job losses. A total of 11,000 losses just didn't seem realistic.

And yet, that's what happened.

The United States economy shed a surprisingly few 11,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent in October, the Labor Department said Friday. [...]

The pace of job loss has been declining since a peak in January, and some economists say they expect a turning point to come in the late spring or summer, with employers finally adding workers as a recovery takes hold.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised estimates from September and October, and both were better than previously thought.

To put last month's numbers in the larger context, since the recession began two years ago this month, the single "best" month for the job market was January 2008, when the economy shed 72,000 jobs. Last month, then, was easily the best month since the start of the recession.

Of course, losing any jobs is bad news, and it's hard to smile too much with 23 consecutive months in which the economy has lost jobs. To get back to a healthy employment landscape, the economy is going to have to not just climb back above 0, but also start creating about 140,000 jobs per month. We're quite a ways from that level.

But today's news is nevertheless the most encouraging we've seen in a long time. The unemployment rate has dropped, and the monthly report far exceeded expectations.

Once more, here's my homemade chart, showing job losses by month, starting in January 2008, a month after the recession began.

jobs_nov.png

Notice how small that bar is on the far-right side of the chart? Does it seem hard to see? That's a good thing.

Steve Benen 8:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Comments

I'd wager that you're right, and there is something seriously wrong with this number. It is not realistic, and given the time of year, it's possible there was some seriously misplaced assumptions as to seasonal adjustments. That a SERIOUSLY faulty survey was taken.

This is as phony as the Afghan Election numbers, and ever bit as obvious.

Posted by: soullite on December 4, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

The chart nicely shows the difference between Republican and Democratic economic policies. But to make the point even more obvious, all the bars before Feb. '09 should be colored Republican red and there should be a big arrow pointing to the point where Obama took over.


Posted by: SteveT on December 4, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure where you got the most optimistic number from. The consensus expectation was for -125,000.

That would seem to mean that about half of the 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg would have been more optimistic than -125, and obviously many of those would be more optimistic than -120.

Posted by: tomboy on December 4, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

You should also add some kind of a wedge showing stimulus spending- I think it came into full effect around August.

Posted by: SP on December 4, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Temporary Christmas help used to boost employment numbers. Does it still? Is it normalized out?

Posted by: worcestergirl on December 4, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

it's possible there was some seriously misplaced assumptions as to seasonal adjustments.

As I read the report, it seems pretty clear they are saying it is NOT seasonally adjusted. There is a separate chart at the bottom, however, that does show seas. adj. numbers.

Posted by: Danp on December 4, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I think the timing on this couldn't be worse for the prospects of a new jobs bill and the extension of unemployment benefits. The argument will be that there is no need for further deficit spending.

I suppose this is good news for the health care bill -- though that bill currently so weak that I have lost interest in the whole thing.

Posted by: Joesbrain on December 4, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

RAPEublican memes

Past - The stimulus will not work.

Recent Past - The stimulus is not working.

Current - The stimulus has failed.

Future - The tax cuts are stimulating growth.

Longterm Future - The tax cuts are responsible for our current era of econoomic growth and prosperity.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 4, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, we shouldn't lose sight of one of the primary reasons why we are in a depression (I think it's worse than a recession), and that is the winner-take-all mentality and machinations of the financial industry, the "Banksters." That group, which continues to reward themselves lavishly with obscene bonuses--largely from the very public monies used to prop them up in emergency fashion--will probably look at these numbers and say 'see? we're going to get away with this no matter what.' And that's true. They own the government.

There will be no repercussions for their greed, and their boy Bernanke is set to maintain his place at the helm, steering actions that will keep the coffers near to overflowing. Cheap labor, ignorant masses, money in the pockets of the robber barons. Same as it ever was. (Bitter? Party of one...)

Posted by: terraformer on December 4, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Honey, get the vacuum. The economy's shedding jobs again."

STUPID WORD to use when families are in crisis.

Posted by: converse on December 4, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

You realize the Bureau does not go out and count actual numbers, right? There are actually two sets of numbers that they use.

The first is where they interview a set number of families, and get the numbers of unemployed, underemployed and employed in those families. They then extrapolate from those interviews and that set of answers to come up with what the "actual" numbers are.

The other set is from businesses reporting. Again, not all businesses report, so the Bureau does some estimating to come up with final numbers. If a business reports one month but not the next, the Bureau estimates what that business would have reported if it had reported. If that business didn't report because it failed and laid everybody off then of course, the Bureau's numbers are rather badly skewed.

ADP, the payroll company, said that businesses cut 169,000 jobs in November.

Whose number is more accurate?

Posted by: Bill H on December 4, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Steve, just a quick question, is your graph using the new readjusted numbers for October and September?

Also, from the bits I caught on CNBC this morning everyone thought the numbers smelled a bit funny but after looking at the raw data they all came to the same conclusion that it looks like those numbers are ligament.

Posted by: Reverend J on December 4, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Also, from the bits I caught on CNBC this morning everyone thought the numbers smelled a bit funny but after looking at the raw data they all came to the same conclusion that it looks like those numbers are ligament.

Thanks for trying to use the spell checker, anyway!

If the economy is shedding jobs, it would only make sense for economists to chew on numbers that are a ligament. My daughter's bull terrier does both.

Posted by: Midland on December 4, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Don't you just hate it when the White House plays with bad news, and dumps it on a Friday when no one's paying attention? (Yes, that is sarcasm; this isn't a Rove White House.)

Posted by: artsmith on December 4, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Those numbers do seem odd -- I don't think I'll feel quite secure with them until a Krugman or De Long takes a look and weighs in. I'm sure both of them are doing so right now.

Even if someone did forget to carry the one and ADP is right, that's still a major move in the right direction, going from 500K lost per month to 160K lost.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 4, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

If it is for real, and it keeps up, the American RightWing will have a collective coronary.

Posted by: Joe Friday on December 4, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to imagine now, but voting against the stimulus package (as all Republicans did) is going to be tough to explain during the mid-term elections.

Posted by: Steve on December 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

If it is for real, and it keeps up, the American RightWing will have a collective coronary.

I suspect that the GOP will take credit for it, instead and label it the "Bush Recover."

Posted by: AK Liberal on December 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

@Midland

I lol'd. Yeah, that's what I get trying to write a sensible comment before my second cup of coffee in the morning.

Legitimate, that's the ticket!

Posted by: Reverend J on December 4, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Anytime the Household Survey data shows a decrease in unemployment while the Establishment Survey data shows a decrease in the number of jobs, you gotta smell a rat.

Some of the problems with the Household Survey have already been discussed, to those I will add: 1) not even the U6 numbers measure anyone who has not looked for work for more than one yr, 2) it's an effing telephone survey -- it only measures unemployment among those who can afford to keep their phone line connected. Most important to keep in mind is that the so-called unemployment figures don't actually measure *unemployment* -- they measure the *demand for jobs*, which is a completely different concept.

Now, to understand how the -11k jobs growth figure is hollow, let's look at a quote from the Establishment Survey:

"Job losses in the construction [-27,000], manufacturing [-41,000], and information [-17,000] industries were offset by job gains in temporary help services [+52,000] and health care [+21,000]."

Temp jobs! In November, 52,000 temp jobs were added to the economy. This is in contrast to 16,000 temp jobs added on average over the prior 4 months.

A huge spike in temp jobs is why the numbers of jobs loss looks so low!

Doesn't look as good now, does it?

Posted by: Disputo on December 4, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry. Can't go with these "encouraging" numbers. Wish it was different, but. Perhaps, we are seeing the bump in min wage, part time jobs for retail Xmas.

A friend mentioned the following last night.
"I voted for FDR, and got Bill Clinton".

As for these job numbers, the Obama folks are spreading manure and calling it fertilizer.

Posted by: Jay in Oregon on December 4, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

not to sound like a broken record here, but why aren't we up with ads that are little more than Steve's chart, and a little arrow at Jan 2009 "Obama and Democratic Congress Start Work"?

Even if the 11,000 is off by a long shot, the trend line (a) under the latter part of the W administration and (b) since Obama's inaugural are clear and easy for anyone, no matter how dumb an American voter they are, to understand. No, Obama hasn't fixed 8 years of malfeasance overnight. But Obama has the line going in the correct direction.

Posted by: zeitgeist on December 4, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

... January 2008, a month after the recession began.

we do not care what the official numbers say or what the economists say or what the government says - the Great Recession started way before January 2008 - more like 2005 or 2006 but it was not as noticeable as it is now.

and do not think for a gd minute that the Great Recession is over and a "Recovery" is underway for you will be sorely and bitterly disappointed.

Posted by: Pissed Off on December 4, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that job loss became significant when it became apparent that Obama would be our next President.

Posted by: U NO HOO on December 8, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

...and in spite of Obama's claims, we are down to 11,000 because there are no more people left to lay off.

Posted by: U NO HOO on December 8, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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