Saturday, April 4, 2009

Unemployment – Worse Than Reported

BLS reports:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline sharply in March (-663,000), and the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 to 8.5 percent

Sandwichman observes:

The 663,000 job losses reported comes on top of a 86,000 downward revision in the January number, making the net loss 749,000. Moreover, the average monthly revision since September 2008 has been 158,000 jobs. There have been no upward revisions.

While the rise in the unemployment rate since September 2008 (6.2% to 8.5%) sounds bad, the fall in the employment to population ratio from 61.9% to 59.9% paints a worse picture. I’ve always been bothered by how BLS reports the unemployment rate in its first sentence leaving the reader to only learn that the participation rate also fell – as in from 66.0% as of September 2008 to the March 2009 level of 65.5%. This participation rate was 66.1% as of November 2007, so as BLS reports that the unemployment rate increased from 4.7% to 8.5%, what this really means is that the employment-population ratio fell from 63.0% to 59.9%.

For those of you who might be following the neo-Hooverite nonsense from the governor of South Carolina, it is interesting (or was that tragic) to know that the unemployment rate for this state reached 11.0% as February 2009.

1 comment:

Travis said...

The refusal to calculate an unemployment indicator using some average level of the participation rate has always bugged. It ends up under-estimating the highs and the lows in the unemployment rate.