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Are today's jobs numbers real?

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified which portion of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report is revised. The establishment survey is revised, the household survey (which contains the unemployment rate) is not. The text below has been corrected.


Are today's jobs numbers real? In a word: no.

The news that the jobless rate has dropped to 7.8 percent has set off a firestorm of protest from Republicans. Right-wing pundits, Representatives and gadflies are insisting that Obama or his cronies in the Bureau of Labor Statisitics and the Federal Reserve have cooked the books, to cut the unemployment rate to match Obama's promise to get it down below 8 percent.

But here's the news: We have no clear idea how many Americans are really unemployed.

The BLS announcement today incorporates two pieces of news. First, that non-farming companies reported that they added 114,000 people onto their payrolls in September. Second that a household survey conducted by the BLS indicates that the number of jobless in the US dropped to 7.8 percent.

The BLS household survey is a one-shot thing. So that 7.8 percent number is a snapshot of what the 60,000 households interviewed by the Census Bureau say. The report from companies, on the other hand, is checked more than once. And it almost certainly will change. We won't get a more accurate count until the revised number comes out in a few weeks. As you can see from the animated GIF below, it may be higher; it may be lower. But it won't be the same.

It never is.

 

 


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Oct 5, 2012

How did boring old mortgages get us into so much trouble?

The New York Times was kind enough to post part of my new book, Man vs Markets on the Bucks Blog today.

The excerpt comes from a chapter in which I talk about the creation of asset-backed securities and their various toxic permutations. They entitled it The Boom and Bust That Your Mortgage Bonds Built. Very catchy!


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Oct 5, 2012

The fiscal cliff explained (with help from Hollywood)

Sep 28, 2012
You've heard warnings about the economic disaster that could happen if Congress fails to avoid a fiscal cliff. But what is the fiscal cliff anyway? Sr. Producer Paddy Hirsch enlists the support of his friends Thelma and Louise in this three-minute explanation.
Posted In: fiscal cliff, Economy, defense, Bush tax cuts

And the winners are...

Sep 14, 2012
Two more lucky winners will receive a copy of "Man vs Markets" this week.

The economic effects of quantitative easing

Sep 11, 2012
Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch explains what QE3 is supposed to do for the economy.
Posted In: QE3, quantitative easing, Federal Reserve

QE3 ahoy!

Sep 7, 2012
Today's gloomy jobs report makes another round of quantitative easing a lot more likely.
Posted In: Federal Reserve, QE3

VIDEO: The ECB's bond-buying program explained with bonbons

Sep 6, 2012
The European Central Bank is set to go on a bond-buying spree in an effort to save the euro and stem the debt crisis. But how does it work? It helps to think about candy.
Posted In: ECB, European Central Bank, bonds

Europe's big bond bet and what it means for the U.S.

Sep 5, 2012
Europe will likely announce a big bond-buying program tomorrow. The U.S. Fed will be watching.
Posted In: Fed, QE3, Federal Reserve, Europe debt crisis

Whiteboard book give-away: And the winner is....

Aug 31, 2012
Marketplace fans sent in nearly 100 ideas for future topics for the Whiteboard explainer video series, earning one lucky viewer a signed copy of Paddy Hirsch's new book, Man vs. Markets
Posted In: Man vs. Markets

The AT&T store, explained

Aug 30, 2012
Why is AT&T opening its first flagship store?
Posted In: at&t

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Financial mysteries explained! Watch the latest video explaining capital adequacy requirements in Paddy Hirsch's Whiteboard series.