Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jobs: The Spin Continues

Well the December Jobs and Jobless reports are coming in and while there's still the big one from the US DoL's Bureau of Labor Statistics due tomorrow (Friday, 1/7/11), we can already see the spinmeisters in operation.

First off is the monthly report from ADP that is released on the first Wednesday of each month (yesterday) detailing the job growth or shrinkage in private sector employment for the previous month. Via McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — Private businesses hired new workers at a surprisingly energetic pace in December, according to a widely tracked job-tracking report released on Wednesday.

The ADP National Employment Report showed that private-sector employment rose by 297,000 in December. That's the highest monthly gain since the report's inception in 2000, and it's double or triple what was expected by mainstream economists.

Most important, job gains that high are what's needed to knock down the stubbornly high unemployment rate, which has been stuck at just under 10 percent for more than a year. Currently it's at 9.8 percent, with a new official BLS report on December employment due on Friday.

Now, if we can have another four plus years of similar growth, we might make a dent on the current Unemployment rate of 9.8%. But you will pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical about this wonderful news. December is a time when there are a lot of short term hires due to the holiday season. I assume that ADP does make some adjustment for the seasonal factor and while 297K new jobs is definitely a good start, as I (and others) have noted recently, even if those jobs are something more than short term, minimum wage positions for the holidays, the odds are good that a lot of them are of the Perma-Temp fashion, with limited to no benefits. So I guess I'm going to hold off on the cheerleading the report.

Next up was today's (Thursday, 1/6/11) Report of Initial Jobless claims. CNN, AP (via MSNBC), and Reuters all have articles presenting pretty much the same spin, i.e., the initial Unemployment Claims are up for the week but the four week average is "trending" down so things are getting better. CNN presents it:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits rose 18,000 to 409,000 last week.

While the latest data puts a damper on the prior week's eyebrow-raising headlines -- when the figure had fallen below 400,000 for the first time in two years -- the slight increase does not come as a complete surprise either.

But the overall improving trend in jobless claims is still intact, Lee said. She points to the 4-week moving average -- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- which is at its lowest level in two years at 410,750, down 3,500 from the previous week.

Reuters pretty much follows the same path as CNN:
Economists say getting the four-week moving average for new jobless claims below 400,000 is critical to reducing the lofty unemployment rate.

The claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 47,000 to 4.10 million in the week ended December 25.

The number of people on emergency unemployment benefits fell 133,625 to 3.58 million in the week ended December 18, the latest week for which data is available. A total of 8.77 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.
My bold. I wonder how many of those 133,625 people are the 99ers?

Then there is this from a CNN survey on hiring for 2011:
Even if December's payroll number is modest, many economists are forecasting much stronger hiring ahead. The average full-year forecast of the 27 economists is for 2.3 million jobs added in 2011, or just under 200,000 a month. That's more than double the pace of hiring forecast for all of last year.

I'm sure the economists' projections will be right on target. After all, we know the economists are never surprised by reality, right?

And because I can:

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