Economy & Budget

Statistical anomaly corrected: Jobless claims explode

Statistical anomaly corrected: Jobless claims explode

Remember how the Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a bizarrely low jobless claims report last week, producing breathless coast-to-coast media coverage of the lowest claims level in four years?  Remember how it turned out they produced this report without having received all of the necessary data?  (BLS still won’t say exactly what was missing; it has been theorized that it had something to do with the numbers from California, which delayed calculation of the traditional “seasonal adjustments.”  However, the crew at ZeroHedge disputes the California theory, growling that in truth, “nobody at the Department of Labor knows what is actually going on, and numbers are simply being picked out of thin air.”)

Nothing was mischievously “suppressed” in the last report.  It was a paperwork glitch, not a dirty trick.  Information simply was not received on time.  It’s happened before.  The strange thing about this particular report was how BLS undersold its incomplete nature, and how virtually every major media outlet simply failed to note that a big fat asterisk belong next to the number.  Instead, it was uncritically presented as proof that after all these years, Obamanomics was finally starting to pump out some jobs.

Well, a new week is upon us, all of the data was evidently received on time, and what do you know?  Initial jobless claims are up by 46,000, to a seasonally adjusted 388,000.  That would technically make it the biggest one-week percentage increase in jobless claims over the last five years.  Of course, a great deal of the percentage increase is due to adjustments correcting last week’s inaccurate numbers.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, even with those adjustments factored in, this week’s claims are well above analyst expectations of 365,000 claims.  That’s impossible to square with the utterly delusional September jobs report, and its ostensible reduction of the headline unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. A boatload of people got hired in September, but now they’re all filing for unemployment benefits? There is no “Obama recovery.”

Last week, you got headlines of the Obama era’s biggest drop in first-time unemployment claims, with not the slightest indication from major media outlets that the numbers might be suspect.  Do you think this ostensibly record-breaking increase will enjoy similarly overheated coverage?  Don’t hold your breath.  A survey of major media sources this morning shows that most of them cite “seasonal factors” as the excuse for the big jump, right in the headline.  (One notable exception: NPR, which served the bad news up straight, with no chaser: “Jobless Claims Take Sharp Jump: Rose By 46,000 Last Week.”)

The asterisk is back, baby!  It’s getting warmed up for the big show at the beginning of November, right before the election, when the statistical anomalies from the September jobs report are ironed out in the October numbers… and every dinosaur media outlet in America releases a horde of velociraptors to explain how that September report was never really accurate.

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