Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Headscratcher of an Unemployment Report

I really hate to be the Grinch that stole Christmas but, once again, the monthly unemployment report leaves me guessing about what is going on.

According to this morning's report, America only shed 11,000 jobs in November. Additionally, the two previous months of data were adjusted downward so there was an improvement of 159,000 jobs over what had been previously reported. This, then, resulted in a drop of the unemployment rate from 10.2% to 10.

Now, if you simply look at the top line numbers, that all makes sense. However, the report, itself, seems to fly in the face of reality. Over the last 5 weeks, the number of people losing their jobs and applying for unemployment claims has been consistently above 450,000. This is at least 150,000 jobs higher than what would be considered a non-recession weekly unemployment claims number. Additionally, the number of those remaining on unemployment benefit rolls has increased. If the economy was in a turnaround, that number should be shrinking but it isn't. Further, according to this morning's report, the number of discouraged workers -- those who have given up looking for a job -- has increased once again.

So, in essence, the facts don't support a meager loss of 11,000 jobs in November. Once again, it appears that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is playing with what they call "seasonal adjustments" and, once again, we are getting skewed numbers. Therefore, this report looks to be more of an anomaly and not something that should be taken very seriously as a turnaround in the economy. For sure, one month doesn't make a trend. We will have to see what happens over the next two months to see if we are really in a turnaround and actually creating jobs. But, be mindful, that we should see weekly unemployment benefit claims that are nearer to 300,000 before I, personally, would believe that we are on a track of true economic growth.

One last thing. Isn't it interesting that there was an improvement in the unemployment rate -- just a day after Obama had his Jobs Summit?

No comments: