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Paul Craig Roberts: The January Jobs Are Statistical Artifacts

Last Friday the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the first month of this new year 243,000 jobs were created and the unemployment rate (U.3) fell to 8.3 percent. This good news is a mirage. It is due to faulty seasonal adjustments and to the BLS birth/death model. In a prolonged downturn, seasonal adjustments and the birth/death model produce nonexistent employment.

The unadjusted data show a rise in the unemployment rate. The birth/death model, which estimates the net effect of jobs lost from business failures and jobs created by new start-ups was designed for a normal growing economy, not for a prolonged downturn four years old. Statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) reports that the BLS adds 48,000 new jobs per month to the payroll employment report based on the birth/death model even though the economy has not come out of the deep recession. In other words, over the course of a year, the birth/death model adds about 580,000 jobs to the reported jobs numbers. End of year benchmark revisions quietly take the nonexistent jobs out of the totals, but these revisions do not receive headlines and pass largely unnoticed.

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