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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BLS Payroll Numbers - Its All Hocus Pocus.

I don't know if you follow the payroll numbers which are released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics but they are considered important benchmarks of where the economy may be headed.  Increasingly though, many people are calling into question the numbers released by the BLS and wondering whether politics is playing a part in the numbers released.  Some openly call the BLS the Bureau of BS.  For example from Art Cashin at Zero Hedge:

Friday’s non-farm payroll numbers got swallowed up by the on-going worries about Greece. But, the “jump” of 290,000 new jobs was a big topic on the weekend talk shows. There was a lot of “we’ve turned the corner” portrayals. Longtime readers know I’ve thought some of the improvement in the data was “suspect” (to be kind). For the last eight weeks, Initial Unemployment Claims have averaged 450,000 per week. So, over the last four weeks, 1.8 million people were laid off. How does that fit in with the claim that 290,000 new jobs were created? The obvious answer is that it doesn’t. So, let’s drill down into the payroll numbers to see what’s going on. The CES Birth/Death adjustment added 188,000 of those jobs. Birth/Death does not refer to people but to businesses. The BLS guesses how many new companies opened versus how many closed their doors. The BLS then uses that guess to guess again how many jobs those business created or lost. Another 66,000 of the new jobs came from census hiring. Those are temporary jobs and those folks will be laid off later in the year. Speaking of temporary, another 26,000 of the new jobs were non-census temporary. Let’s recap. A guess produced 188,000 of the jobs, 66,000 were census and 26,000 were temporary. Thus, it seems 280,000 of the 290,000 “new jobs” were either temporary or the result of guesswork. Some turn. Some corner.

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