Recently, when I complained to a business reporter about the press’s failure to even recognize the raw data, and that they frequently fail to tell readers, listeners, and viewers that the seasonally adjusted numbers are, well, seasonally adjusted, he wrote back that “the Labor Department considers the seasonally adjusted number(s) to be much more reflective of what’s actually going on in the economy. If you don’t agree, you should complain to them. In fact, I think they consider the seasonally adjusted numbers as much ‘raw data’ as the not seasonally adjusted numbers.” No they don’t — and heaven help us all.
Nevertheless, those who are claiming that the raw numbers showing 2.689 million jobs lost in January led to an unreasonable seasonally adjusted result are incorrect, based on the marked-up BLS-generated tables below:
For as long as BLS has been tracking employment data monthly, January has had a huge number of job losses, mostly because every year employers release most of those who were hired temporarily during the previous two months’ Christmas shopping and shipping rushes. As seen above, during the relatively strong years from 2003-2007, the economy lost an average of 2.7 million jobs in January. This year’s seasonally adjusted conversion to 243,000 job additions is pretty much in line with the seasonally adjusted results from 2006 and 2007, the two years during which recession-plagued data wasn’t factored into the five year-based seasonal calculations. That it turned out this way is largely due to luck, because the monthly raw data from the last four years has been more affected by the stinky economy than typical seasonal job-market fluctuations.
There are other interesting items which surfaced this month in the data used to determine the unemployment rate. The most important is the fact that BLS upwardly revised the number of people who aren’t in the workforce by 1.2 million as a result of fresher information from the Census Bureau. Although this doesn’t mean, as some believe, that all 1.2 million dropped out of the workforce in just one month, it does signify that the administration’s policies during the past three years have continued to generate a combination of rampant demoralization and “going Galt” which has handicapped the economy and seriously harmed the lives of millions of individuals and families.
But let’s get back to those raw jobs numbers, because the acid test for Team Obama’s claim that the economy is finally legitimately recovering will come during the next five months. As seen above, during the four relatively good years of 2004 through 2007, the economy added an average of 4.11 million jobs from February through June. But that was during a time when the unemployment rate was never higher than 5.8%, and in 2007 averaged only 4.5%. An authentically recovering economy making a real dent in a horribly underutilized workforce should generate six million jobs on the ground during the next five months. If it doesn’t, it won’t be genuinely recovering, no matter what the seasonally adjusted numbers say, and no matter what Team Obama and their media lapdogs want us to believe they say.