Green Room

More context for snow and unemployment

posted at 1:11 pm on March 5, 2010 by

Following up on Ed’s post, let’s hear from our president:

Obama, touring a small business in Arlington, Va., said that the 36,000 jobs lost last month was “actually better than expected” considering the massive snowstorms that devastated the East Coast.

But the president said the steady number also “shows that the measures we’re taking to turn our economy around are having some impact.”

From the Hill. I’m sure he only had time to read the executive summary, but if you read the actual report it includes this:

Major winter storms affected parts of the country during the February reference periods for the establishment and household surveys.

In the establishment survey, the reference period was the pay period including February 12th. In order for severe weather conditions to reduce the estimate of payroll employment, employees have to be off work for an entire pay period and not be paid for the time missed. About half of all workers in the payroll survey have a 2-week, semi-monthly, or monthly pay period. Workers who received pay for any part of the reference pay period, even one hour, are counted in the February payroll employment figures. While some persons may have been off payrolls during the survey reference period, some industries, such as those dealing with cleanup and repair activities, may have added workers.

In the household survey, the reference period was the calendar week of February 7-13. People who miss work for weather-related events are counted as employed whether or not they are paid for the time off.

That says to me that BLS does not think the storm greatly altered the employment data.

Where you would see a real effect of the storm would be on hours worked, but the data has a half-hour decline for construction and not much else. The headline number for private sector hours worked declined by 0.1 hours, with a similar small drop in weekly earnings, even though hourly wages were up three cents.

There are no data on hours worked in the government sector in that report. But Diana Furchtott-Gott of the Hudson Institute notes that those government workers who were unable to work did not lose pay and weren’t laid off. So they can’t be in this number.

36,000 jobs lost is a bit better than the consensus of 50k, but 14,000 is certainly smaller than the margin of error or the size of the monthly revision. The January number was revised to -26,000 from -20,000, for example.

Obama also promised a zero unemployment rate:

Despite the relatively good news, Obama repeated his pledge that he “will not rest” until every American who wants a job has one.

Good luck with that.

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Does this -36k number include the temporary (we hope) number of census employees? Howza bout people with 2 jobs such as my nephew and no doubt some imaginable number like him? Are they counted once per job or once per body? How about police dogs? Thanks for making the Bureau of Labor Statistics become “unexpectedly” clear and concise during all these weather events, BarryO.

And the illegal aliens? I see them working quite frequently, and yes, I KNOW they are illegal. So if they are standing by the paint store waiting to get picked up for day work, do they get counted as unemployed, temporary labor, or not at all? Thanks for bringing up immigration reform again this week, BarryO.

And this week there was an article stating that IBM was moving 2400 jobs overseas. So, jobs created = 2400 if you let the Obamamaniacs do the math, just not US jobs. So much for US talent maintaining their mortgages. Thanks for leading on a good tax policy there, BarryO.

Arghhhhh! Will November never come?

Robert17 on March 5, 2010 at 1:36 PM

Of course the real unemployment rate went up, from 16.5% to 16.8% of the civilian workforce, which adds about 450,000 to the unemployment rolls — Which now stands at about 25 million, if my math is right. No guarantees, with this bunch of purposely obfuscated cruft.

tarpon on March 5, 2010 at 7:47 PM