Has Something Happened to the BLS' Seasonal Adjustment?

A blog about business and economics.
July 6 2012 1:51 PM

Has Something Happened to the BLS' Seasonal Adjustment?

1341597096289

Data on the unemployment rate and the employment-population ratio come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "household survey," while the monthly jobs number comes from the more reliable "establishment survey." So what we have above is a chart where Kevin Drum, instead of looking at the employment-population number, just took the household survey jobs report and subtracted for population growth to get net job creation.

What you see looks an awful lot like a steady-state labor market with seasonality. We get more new jobs than new people most of the year, but fewer jobs than people in springtime. The only problem is that this is supposed to be a seasonally adjusted data series. I'm obviously not an expert in this, but I speculate that the seasonal adjustment algorithm has gotten miscalibrated somehow. One possibility is that aggregate population movement to the Sun Belt plus global warming mean that the cold weather disemployment effect of winter no longer matters as much as it used to.

Advertisement

To be clear, even if true this wouldn't alter the conventional wisdom about the basic economic situation. Whether the adjustment is right or wrong, we've settled into a high unemployment equilibrium with no sign of making up the lost ground anytime soon.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 1:52 PM Julian Casablancas’ New Album Sounds Like the Furthest Thing From the Strokes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.