The BLS Just Discovered Almost 400,000 Missing Jobs

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 27 2012 11:51 AM

The BLS Just Discovered Almost 400,000 Missing Jobs in Its Rebenchmarking

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A protestor holds a sign during a demonstration against unemployment benefit cuts in Oakland, Calif.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

When it comes to economic data, as with much else in life, the media tends to overweight the new relative to the true. So each monthly jobs report is scrutinized, but later revisions tend to get ignored. Yet today the Burea of Labor Statistics did a rebenchmarking and found 386,000 new jobs.

As you'd expect, that doesn't utterly transform our understanding of the economy. The job market is still weak, all things considered. But it's not as weak as the data we've been seeing imply. And that can help us explain things like "why has the unemployment rate been falling despite weak payroll growth?" or even "how can Mitt Romney be losing with the economy doing so poorly?" The payroll growth maybe wasn't quite as weak as we thought, and the economy overall was perhaps doing a bit better.

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And these are just revisions through March. We won't have the real data story of what was going on this fall and summer until long after the election is done, and by then probably it'll just get ignored.

Note that the benchmarking added a net of 386,000 jobs. In gross terms it actually subtracted 67,000 government jobs so the rebalancing of the American economy away from government employment and toward the private sector has actually gone somewhat further than we realized. Note that this also means that the Obama Era has crossed the symbolically important zero line. More Americans are employed today than were when he took office.

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