Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Are Economists Always "Surprised?"

There I was doing my usual surfing of the news sites after my daily disappointment in the job search when I saw that the Weekly Report on Initial Jobless claims had been released as usual. And as usual, the "Economists were surprised":

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell for a second straight week last week, according to a government report released Thursday.

The number of initial claims fell to 420,000 in the week ending Dec. 11, down 3,000 from 423,000 claims filed the week before, the Labor Department said. It was the second lowest level of the year.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting 425,000 new claims.

Now realistically, the difference between 425K initial jobless claims versus 420K initial claims is 1.2% which is probably within a statistically margin of error on the reporting. And I assume the faithful stenographers reporters are faithfully reporting and transcribing what they are told by the always faceless and nameless "economists," after all, we know they would never try to shade the facts on anything, right?

It does seem though that most every report on anything dealing with the economy for the past few years, especially reports dealing with numbers, includes the phrase "economists surprised," always nameless and faceless economists of course.

My first time through college I was a Sociology major and one of the very first things I learned when reviewing Sociological reports and studies was to first check the original assumptions that should be outlined at the start of every report. Maybe the economists wouldn't have to be "surprised" all the time if they would release their own basic assumptions on economics reporting or the assumptions underlying the reporting done by others.

And because I can:

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