CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Gets Carried Away With February Job Numbers (see correction)

NYT Gets Carried Away With February Job Numbers (see correction)

Friday, 09 March 2012 22:03

The February jobs report was reasonably good. It wasn't great; we created an average of 250,000 jobs a month for four years at the end of the 90s. Coming off a severe downturn we should be seeing jobs growth of 400,000 a month, as we did following the 81-82 recession and the 74-75 recession, but 227,000 jobs is definitely an improvement over what we had been seeing.

But the NYT got a bit carried away. It told readers:

"Household survey respondents indicated that 879,000 more people were working in February than in January. Though it is not unusual for the two surveys to differ, it is unusual for the growth in the household survey to be so much greater."

No, that isn't quite right. The survey showed a rise in employment of 428,000 jobs. That's good, but not 879,000.



The NYT is in fact right on this. The article was referring to a series that BLS constructs that adjusts the household survey for differences in concept with the establishment survey. This measure excludes self-employed workers and adjusts for workers with multiple jobs. This series did in fact show a gain in employment of 879,000 in February.

The biggest reason for the difference between the two series was a sharp drop in the number of workers reported as self-employed. This reduced the gain in employment shown in the published data, however it would not affect the establishment series.

Thanks Zee for calling this to my attention.  

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by zee, March 10, 2012 10:31
Actually, no you're wrong. They're using the adjusted household survey numbers since that series is meant to be comparable to the payroll survey.

The adjusted household survey number was indeed 879,000.

written by skeptonomist, March 10, 2012 11:55
So the payroll survey gave a 227k improvement and the household survey gave a 428k improvement, but the "adjusted" household survey gave 879k. I agree with Dean than the 879k number is fishy and I'm going to sell the "adjusted" survey for next month short.
I don't think you need a correction here
written by Robert Oak, March 10, 2012 1:10
I just read the NYT article and they do not state that's a research number, it's simply not the official number and it's also simply to compare against the CES. There's a reason the BLS doesn't publish the research trends in their official report. The NYT's doesn't make it clear that's what they are quoting here.

The BLS trend lines is way more useful to simply smooth out the Census adjustments in order to compare a years worth of data from the CPS.

The official number is 428k, period. The paper is only to more easily compare the CES against the CPS but NYT without explaining the research!

We have press all over the place over-inflating numbers and making all sorts of mistakes. See:

Who here thinks we need to lobby Congress to increase the size of the CPS survey with more detailed questions PLUS require an alternative data series which smooths out end of year adjustments and Census adjustments on the CPS? Although it is very fun to watch so many in the press get it so wrong month after month.

BTW: on "how many jobs does it take t keep up with population"? I think the Atlanta Fed got sick of seeing numbers thrown around and created a calculator. We feel validated for it's using the same calculations we've been doing by hand.

At the bottom of this article:

The calculator is mentioned, linked up.

Anyway Mr. Baker I think you corrected too soon, the NYT's article to me is extremely misleading.
written by JSeydl, March 10, 2012 1:50
This is the difference between the right and the left: The right never admits to being wrong, whereas Dean clearly is not afraid to acknowledge a mistake. I’m *still* waiting for all of the supply siders who called for skyrocketing Treasury yields and inflation last year to admit that they misunderstood basic concepts in economics, such as the IS-LM framework.
Seconding JSeydl's remarks, the Tao Teh King (Bahm trans.) says;
written by diesel, March 10, 2012 6:29
"He who willingly takes the blame for disgrace to his community is considered a responsible person,

And he who submissively accepts responsibility for the evils in his community naturally will be given enough authority for dealing with them.

These principles, no matter how paradoxical, are sound."
written by TonyH, March 11, 2012 1:47
The unemployment rate is so hard to figure out when people add all this extra stuff into it. Of course the sheer number of people drawing unemployment benefits should be the biggest indicator. Nobody has ever called my house to see if we are working and they haven't called anyone I know either so I don't think those "polls" are very reliable.


casino en ligne

Wagering at an casino en ligne has to be learned and taken seriously sometimes if you are in it for the money.

written by John, March 11, 2012 10:42
Thanks for providing the quick correction and admitting the error!

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.