Bad data?

December 3, 2011

By Matthew Goldstein

The jobs situation is still pretty bad in the U.S. and the nation has a long way to go to make up for the millions of jobs lost during the financial crisis. But today’s job’s report and recent revisions point out that maybe things aren’t as bad as everyone feared just a few months ago.

Remember this summer, when everyone was convinced the U.S. was headed into another recession. The August jobs report seemed to confirm that bleak outlook when the Department of Labor said the nation produced a big fat 0 in terms of new jobs. But now we know that 100,000 jobs were created in August. And the Labor Department says the 103,000 jobs thought to have been added in September was actually 210,000.

The October number also was revised up by 20,000 to 100,000.

So who knows, maybe November’s report, which said the nation added 120,000, will be revised upwards next year when the December jobs reported is released.

If nothing else, as Floyd Norris notes, the revisions “are signs of a generally strengthening labor market.”

But it could also be a sign of something else, continuing trouble with the government’s ability to collect economic data. And that’s something to ponder because the poor jobs numbers of August and September helped cement the view on Wall Street and elsewhere that the U.S. was headed for a double dip.

Now a recession could still happen, especially if the Eurozone nations can’t get their act together. And it’s always possible that November’s jobs number will be revised downward.

But the point is that at a critical time for the economy, the government’s ability to collect timely and reliable data is in question. And that’s not a good thing.



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