Felix Salmon

Those noisy payrolls figures

By Felix Salmon
February 7, 2014

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The chart of the day comes from Betsey Stevenson, and helps to show just how noisy the payrolls data really are. The big headline figures of the day, 113,000 is ostensibly the increase that we saw, in January, in the number of people on American payrolls. It’s a disappointing number, while a print of say 200,000 would have been decidedly encouraging.

Under the weather

By Felix Salmon
January 10, 2014

13 months ago, the Hurricane Sandy jobs report was released — the one for November 2012. Analysts were bracing themselves: a lot of people hadn’t been able to work that month, due to bad weather. But in the end, the report was not that bad: 146,000 new jobs were created in the month, and the unemployment rate nudged down to 7.7%. Markets, which had been expecting a mere 80,000 new jobs, were positively surprised.

Tidings of comfort and joy

By Felix Salmon
December 6, 2013

It’s the season of good cheer, and the BLS is doing its bit to make econowonks happy in December. The last jobs report of 2013 is a great one; it now looks as though Fed chair Ben Bernanke is going to be able to go out on a high note, having brought the unemployment rate down to the key 7% level.

The GIGO jobs report

By Felix Salmon
November 8, 2013

This is undoubtedly the most distorted jobs report in living memory. Scroll down a bit, and you get to a whole box entitled “Partial Federal Government Shutdown”, which explains that for a multitude of reasons, the amount of “nonsampling error” in this report is going to be much bigger than it normally is — and yet, the BLS also made the correct decision that for the sake of “data integrity”, it was not going to try to correct for any of those nonsampling errors.

Jobs: The summer’s over

By Felix Salmon
September 6, 2013

If you wanted to engineer the strongest possible recovery in the US economy, you would try to create two things. First, and most important, you would want robust jobs growth, with employers adding positions, the unemployed — and especially the long-term unemployed — finding new jobs, and the proportion of Americans with jobs rising steadily. Secondly, you would want to introduce errors into the monthly jobs report. You would try to make jobs growth seem weaker than it really was, and unemployment higher. By doing that, you would keep monetary policy — and market expectations for future monetary policy — as accommodative as possible. That in turn would keep both short-term and long-term rates low, which would provide extra fuel for the recovery.

When the government outsources employment policy

By Felix Salmon
July 5, 2013

America is creating jobs — but they’re not well-paid jobs, and they don’t seem to be going to the previously unemployed.

The minimum-wage stimulus

By Felix Salmon
June 20, 2013

Nick Hanauer has a good idea today: raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The minimum-wage intervention would kill a lot of birds with one stone: it’s a win-win-win-win-win-win.

Doomed Europe

By Felix Salmon
May 7, 2013

It’s long — at some 4,500 words — but I can highly recommend the debate between George Soros and Hans-Werner Sinn about what Soros calls The German Question.

Understanding the painfully slow jobs recovery

By Felix Salmon
May 3, 2013

Today’s jobs report was a solid one, and shows that the recovery, while not exactly strong, is at least not slowing down: Neil Irwin calls it “amazingly consistent”. Whether you look at the past 1 month, 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months, you’ll see the same thing: average payrolls growth of roughly 170,000 jobs per month. That’s not enough to bring unemployment down very quickly, given the natural growth in the workforce. But unemployment is coming down slowly. And at the rate we’re going, at some point in the second half of 2014 we should see total payrolls reach their pre-crisis levels, and the headline unemployment rate hit the key 6.5% level.