U.S. Jobs Data

June 9, 2005

Every month, the press reports the latest “jobs data” in the U.S.

Here is the latest example. The New York Times reports that, “after the government reported that only 78,000 new jobs were created in May, the smallest monthly gain since August 2003, stocks fell as the slow-growth theme took hold for at least a day.

On the west coast, this L.A.Times story reported the same event thus: The Labor Department issued its May data showing that only 78,000 nonfarm jobs were added to payrolls — less than half the amount economists had expected and a steep drop from the 274,000 created in April.”

The same event, was reported by the Washington Post thus: “The U.S. economy created 78,000 new jobs in May, the Labor Department reported today, about half as many as economists expected and the lowest payroll growth rate since August 2003.”

If the above seems repetitive, bear with me while I present one more example. This is from “the horse’s mouth”. It is a “summary” issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In part, it begins: “Nonfarm employment edged up by 78,000 in May following a much larger increase in April,…”

If you read any of the above, you’d reasonably conclude that (say) X new jobs were added, Y jobs were lost and that the difference (X – Y) was 78,000. Not so! I was surprised to read Gene Epstein (Barron’s Austrian economist) write that the economy actually added 707,000 jobs in May. I did not trust Mr. Epstein and thought he was trying to “spin” his own version. So, I delved a little deeper into the report by the Bureau of Labor Stats.

To my surprise he was right. In May, the U.S. economy added 707,000 net jobs.
If you wish to check up on this, here is the link.

Reminded me of Benjamin Disraeli’s famous line: “lies, damn lies, and statistics