Posted Friday, May 4, 2012, at 3:52 PM
The "jobs number" you see reported in the press is normally the Bureau of Labor Statistics' seasonally adjusted data. It seems to me, however, that for the past few years we've been having a lot of seasonality in the seasonally adjusted series. Roughly speaking, every winter there's been a kind of false dawn that suckers some swathe of the observers into predicting that a self-sustaining accelerating recovery dynamic is now in place. Back in January-February of 2011 and 2010 I was among the skeptics, but early this year I was a leading sucker. Then each spring has come a discouraging deceleration.
Under the circumstances, in some respects I think we may get a clearer picture of the trend by looking at the raw data without the statistical adjustment. Since their based on the same data, the basic picture of a slow-but-steady recovery rather than a fast-and-furious one is the same. But arguably what's going on is that the seasonal gyrations just aren't as big as the BLS' model predicts and this is creating an exaggerated sense of optimism each winter.