Who are you going to believe: Gallup or the BLS?

Looking at today’s unemployment data, it’s hard to call Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge wrong. Here’s what he said yesterday:

On one hand we have the Department of Truth about to tell tomorrow that NFP [Non-Farm Payrolls] based on various seasonal and birth death adjustments increased by 250,000. On the other hand, we have Gallup which actually does real time polling without a procyclical propaganda bias. And Gallup does’t have any good news: “Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, hit 10.3% in February — up from 9.8% at the end of January. The U.S. unemployment rate is now essentially the same as the 10.4% at the end of February 2010.” And the one indicator that nobody in the mainstream media will touch with a ten foot pole: “Underemployment, a measure that combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with those who are unemployed, surged in February to 19.9%. This resulted from the combination of a sharp 0.5-point increase since the end of January in the percentage unemployed and a 0.5-point increase in the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work. Underemployment is now higher than it was at this point a year ago (19.7%).”[1]

Actually, the non-seasonally adjusted number for non-farm payroll employment was up by nearly 500,000 from January.[2] The corresponding seasonally adjusted number was a lot closer: 192,000, with a headline U3 unemployment rate of 8.9 percent,[3] presumably enabling the powers to be to declare victory over unemployment, now that the rate is below nine percent.

What’s important here is a tone and a loss of credibility in the government figures. Nobody believes the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers anymore. They’re just too heavily manipulated and looking at their results, I have to wonder if they’re even asking reasonable questions. As I noted in June 2010,

Carlton Meyer, of Sanders Research Associates, wrote for Truthout simply that “an honest man would count anyone who would like to work as unemployed.” That clarity must surely weigh heavily in any evaluation of six different BLS measures defined with varying inclusions and exclusions that evoke the image of a shell game. Gallup seems to agree. For its daily survey, the organization says it “classifies Americans as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work.”[4]

Gallup provides their daily survey here. Based on a 30-day rolling average—I’m no statistician but that sounds like extremely solid methodology to me—they say unemployment is at 10.2 percent and that underemployment is at 19.9 percent.[5]. By contrast, the non-seasonally adjusted BLS numbers indicate 9.53 percent unemployment and Admiral Janeway’s U3 is at 15.09 percent.

There just doesn’t seem to be any way of reconciling Gallup’s numbers with those of the BLS. So who are you going to believe?

  1. [1]Tyler Durden, “Gallup Reports Underemployment Surges To 19.9%, February “Jobs Situation Deteriorates”: As Bad As 2010,” Zero Hedge, March 3, 2011, http://www.zerohedge.com/article/gallup-reports-underemployment-surges-199-jobs-situation-deteriorates-bad-february-2010?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29
  2. [2]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age,” http://bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpsatab1.htm
  3. [3]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Summary,” March 4, 2011 http://bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Counting games: why I started tracking unemployment statistics my own way and why I’m quitting,” Benfell Blog, http://disunitedstates.org/?p=1934
  5. [5]Gallup, “Gallup Daily: U.S. Employment,” March 1, 2011, http://www.gallup.com/poll/125639/Gallup-Daily-Workforce.aspx

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