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Better late than never: Government jobs report

When some people think of Friday, they start to get excited. Not because they have the weekend to look forward to, but because the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its jobs numbers every first Friday of the month.

But thanks to the shutdown, last month's numbers are here on the last Tuesday of the month.

Let's start with the basics: 148,000 jobs were added in September. "If we were to put the 148,000 in context, it's lower than the previous 12 month average, which was 185,000 jobs per month," says Elise Gould from the Economic Policy Institute. "We also see that the unemployment rate was little changed. It went from 7.3 percent in August to 7.2 percent in September."

Gould says that overall, this report tells us that the U.S. is far from a full recovery. But, looking at the jobs numbers from month-to-month doesn't always give the most accurate assessment of the economy. The yearly data often paints the clearest picture.

Take the unemployment rate. "We've had sustained high unemployment relative to 2007 across all age, education , occupation, gender and ethnic groups," says Gould," and that underscores the fact that the jobs crisis stems from a broad-based lack of demand."

Given the delay in these numbers, how wary should people be of this report, if the data itself was affected by the compound?

Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution says these numbers aren't affected. "Next month's numbers will be affected by the government furlough for two reasons," he says. One is that the surveying that the government does to collect the data will have begun later in the month than normal. "And two," Burtless says, "we should see some sharp employment reductions because people on furlough, I presume, would have said they are absent from work."

What will the Federal Reserve do with all this delayed data, especially given the uncertainty that surrounded the shutdown and the debt limit crisis? Burtless expects the Fed will hold off on any big policy decisions, "I think they will be cautious about slowing, tapering the monetary stimulus they have been providing."

The Fed will have to wait an extra week for next month's job numbers, which are also delayed by the shutdown.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.
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