Posted Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, at 11:17 AM
Many eagle eyed observers have noted that the good jobs numbers today appear to be driven to a surprisingly large extent by a hiring surge of couriers and messengers that arguably reflects a temporary Christmas surge. Now it's for exactly this reason that the BLS applies a seasonal adjustment factor to the data, so in principle this problem shouldn't arise. But after spending some time with the historical tables this morning, it does look to me like the BLS's adjustment formula may have become mis-calibrated, so I don't dismiss the worry. But look at the chart above of data from the non-adjusted series just looking at couriers in December.
I would say this shows that December courier employment tracks overall economic conditions. When there's a recession, courier employment falls. When there's growth, it rises. Not month-to-month, mind you, but year-to-year. So what we see in this new data is very much consistent with a recovery story. Now of course in one or two months we'll have revised data and better information. But my preliminary read of the preliminary data is that this is legit good news.