Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Work Your Magic On Us

Calculated Risk:

From the BLS:

Nonfarm payroll employment changed little (-54,000) in August, and the unemployment rate was about unchanged at 9.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Government employment fell, as 114,000 temporary workers hired for the decennial census completed their work. Private-sector payroll employment continued to trend up modestly (+67,000).

Census 2010 hiring decreased 114,000 in August. Non-farm payroll employment increased 60,000 in July ex-Census.

Both June and July payroll employment were revised up. “June was revised from -221,000 to -175,000, and the change for July was revised from -131,000 to -54,000.”

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist:

GIVEN the consistently disappointing data we’ve seen out of the American economy in recent weeks, the outlook for this morning’s August payroll employment report was uncomfortably uncertain. Initial jobless claims have risen ominously of late, and a number of indicators of economic activity have edged downward, leading some to believe that the Labour Department would provide evidence of a sharp retrenchment in labour markets for the month.

In fact, the figures aren’t that bad. The headline number is negative—off 54,000 for the month—but that’s overwhelmingly due to the continued drawdown in temporary census employment, which subtracted 114,000 jobs from the August report. Ex-census, the economy added 60,000 jobs in August. Private employment rose by 67,000 for the month. Since December of 2009, private employment has grown by a total of 763,000.

Meanwhile, revisions to previous months’ data indicated a better labour market performance than was previously believed. The June employment change was revised from a drop of 221,000 to a decline of 175,000, and the change in July was revised from a decline of 131,000 jobs to a dip of just 54,000. (In both cases, the headline negative figures were also attributable to the unwinding of temporary census hiring). July private employment growth was revised up to 107,000 jobs.

Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic:

So why did the unemployment rate manage to rise when most of the news is mildly good? First, because Census job losses are still hurting the overall numbers. Luckily, only 82,000 Census workers were left employed at the end of August. So subsequent months won’t be as affected as the past three, which registered six-digit job declines from this population of temporary workers.

The other factor here was seasonality. August is a month during which the seasonally-adjusted rate generally rises above the unadjusted rate. In fact, the unadjusted unemployment rate declined from 9.7% to 9.5%. Here’s how those two lines interact:

unemp seasonal 2010-08.png

Also, although it’s not shown here, the unadjusted U-6 rate also declined significantly, from 16.8% to 16.4%.

While it’s hard to get excited about a month when 54,000 more Americans were unemployed and the seasonally adjusted rate ticked up slightly, there’s definitely some reason for optimism in this report. The private sector continues to add jobs and most sub-sectors had more workers. There were also fewer long-term unemployed Americans.

Steve Benen:

Indeed, we’ve now seen eight consecutive months of job growth in the private sector, a streak we haven’t seen in a long while.

Also note, the job numbers for June and July were revised in a positive direction. While previous estimates showed the economy losing 221,000 jobs in June, the updated total was a loss of 175,000. In July, last month’s reporting showed a loss of 131,000 jobs, while the revised total was a loss of 54,000.

To be clear, it’s not my intention to sugarcoat the jobs report. The economy needs to be adding jobs — lots of them — right now, and as the chart below shows, the employment landscape’s head is not yet above water. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy needs to add about 150,000 jobs a month. To bring down the unemployment rate, the figure would have to be about double. We’re not even in the ballpark.

But for those looking for good news — or at least less-bad news — today’s jobs report offers at least a glimmer of hope. Things aren’t good, but nearly everyone expected them to be worse. (Dear Dems, don’t use that as a campaign slogan.)

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:

What is to be done? Robert Reich stands on his desk and calls for — what else? — a second stimulus. Easy for him to say! Los Tiempos de Nueva York explains that nobody’s interested in buying another ticket for the Royal Nonesuch:

President Obama on Monday said his administration was weighing new steps to bolster the economy, but any measures are likely to be small. His options are limited given that Congress has shown little appetite for more spending before the midterm elections in November, in which Republicans are hoping to reclaim both the Senate and the House.

And nobody will ever invest in the stock market again.

Andrew Samwick

Ernest Istook at Heritage:

Credibility plummeted as well as White House happy talk didn’t match the stubbornly inconvenient facts.  Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, amazingly said the lousy August numbers “are reassuring that growth and recovery are continuing.”

Efforts to reach out to its usually-responsive youth audience were stymied by a National League of Cities’ report that began, “Summer jobs prospects for teenagers have been diminishing steadily over the past decade, but early data for June 2010 show that employment rates for the nation’s 16- to 19-year-olds have fallen to stunning new lows.”

It all prompted normally supportive liberal economist Paul Krugman to write, “This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters.”

The President had promised allies in Congress that the summer barnstorming tour would trumpet success and turn around the rotten poll numbers for him and his party.  He and the Vice-President made stops that included Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, coinciding with fundraisers that included California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, New York, Washington and Ohio.

But the message on Obama’s teleprompter differed dramatically from what everyday Americans were experiencing.  The New York Times put a “Welcome to the Recovery” title on a Pollyanna op-ed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.  But it was more believable when Geithner admitted to ABC News, “U.S. unemployment may rise again before it falls.  And the economy isn’t recovering rapidly enough.”

The White House and its allies bally-hoo their claims, but the contrast with the personal experience of most Americans is stark.  That’s unlikely to change even with the “re-education” efforts proposed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius about the vastly-unpopular Obamacare law.

Those re-education efforts may fall as flat as the classic question, “Who are you going to believe?  Me or your own lying eyes?”

Doug Mataconis:

The stock market seems to be reacting positively to these numbers based on pre-market trading, but there isn’t much good news politically here for the Obama Administration and Democrats. If nothing else, it pretty much confirms what’s in the mind of the public already, and there’s very little chance that the September jobs numbers will be all that better.

We may not be in a double dip recession, but it’s not much of a recovery either, and that’s bad news for the incumbent party

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