In contrast to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing unemployment steady at 9.69 percent, Admiral Janeway’s U3 statistic actually shows a small decrease in unemployment for February, from 12.95 to 12.82 percent. This makes last month’s decline–employment statistics for January are always dubious due to the birth/death adjustment–from the peak in December at 13.32 percent easier to believe.
Because I designed that statistic to counter manipulations of the labor force size, it is unsurprising that the percent of the population employed correspondingly shows an increase:
At 58.50 percent, we are slightly above the employment level of last October, when it was 58.44 percent.
Given that bad weather was widely expected to increase unemployment, I’m guessing that the decrease is instead due to temporary Census Bureau jobs. If this is the case, the impact will disappear as those jobs disappear. But in the meantime, look for relatively positive reports. As the Calculated Risk blog notes, commenting on a graph of temporary employment, “the temporary hiring for the Census should probably be excluded from this graph in the future (remember the Census will boost payroll jobs by maybe 100 thousand in March, and up to 500 thousand in May – but all those jobs will be lost over the following 6 months). (UPDATE: The Business Insider offers a bleak view of this bounce.)
My RSS feed for Shadow Government Statistics yielded this message: “Payroll Drop of 36,000 was 51,000 Net of Census Hiring; Broader February Unemployment Measures Rose: U.6 at 16.8% (up 0.3%), SGS at 21.6% (up 0.4%); Economy Remains Headed into Deepening Downturn.” I dredged around the BLS site and found a table for the non-seasonally adjusted U6, which includes unemployed, marginally attached (discouraged workers), and part-time workers who would prefer to work full time but do not for economic reasons. Their non-seasonally adjusted U6 is at 17.9 percent, just down from a peak of 18.0 percent last month; all this reinforces my view that “seasonal adjustments” introduce additional murkiness in economic reporting that outweighs their usefulness.