Jobs report Tuesday: So late... so what?

Matthew Giarmo of Alexandria, Virginia, who lost his contract job with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2012, holds up a sign seeking a job with a lower salary than he would normally ask on a street corner October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC.

If you're curious about the impact of a delay in issuing the government's monthly jobs report, here's a quick summary, courtesy of Doug Handler of IHS Global Insight:  "It doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot."

The schedule change is an inconvenience for economists, he says. That’s it.

If anything, the delay could be a helpful reminder that these monthly numbers don’t provide much guidance for where the economy is heading. 

"The thing to remember about the employment data is that it’s a lagging indicator of the economy," says John Canally, an economist with LPL Financial. "That doesn’t, however, stop markets from obsessing over it, and economists like myself from obsessing over it, and folks in the media from obsessing over it."

The so-called "headline number" -- 7.3 percent last time this report came out -- isn’t even the most revealing.

Chris Thornberg, founder of Beacon Economics, says there is useful data in these releases, but it's in the details.

"If you're a kid today, and you're thinking about, 'Gee, where am I going to go find a job?' Well, these numbers will tell you what parts of the economy are hiring right now," he says. "Should I be looking for a job in an office, or should I be looking for a job in a train station?"

The data is at bls.gov (now that the shutdown is over). Happy hunting.

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...