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No Rick Santelli and Zero Hedge, One Million People Did Not Drop Out of the Labor Force Last Month

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On February 3, 2012 @ 4:15 pm In Data Analysis,Employment,Really, really bad calls,Think Tank,UnGuru | Comments Disabled

SilverOz is an MPA specializing in local economic development and have worked in local economic development for a mid-sized midwestern county for over 10 years.  He has personally worked on/managed projects that have totaled over $500 million in direct investment into the county.

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So today following an otherwise pretty darn good jobs report, we get the usual perma-pessimists at Zero Hedge [1] and Rick Santelli [2] over at CNBC [2] proclaiming that the report showed a drop of over 1 million people from the labor force in one month. Of course, as ususal, both Santelli and Zero Hedge have a real reading comprehension problem and completely missed that this million+ people isn’t some new January phenomenon, but a result of the BLS using the 2010 census data to have more accurate data. In other words, the changes in the Household Survey to the various measures had taken place over the years prior to 2010, but for simplicity’s sake, the BLS incorporates these changes into one month (which they clearly point out). The relevant text from the report [3] is below (bold is mine):

“Effective with data for January 2012, updated population estimates which reflect the results of Census2010 have been used in the household survey. Population estimates for the household survey are developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the estimates to reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population during the decade. The change in population reflected in the new estimates results from the introduction of the Census 2010 count as the new population base, adjustments for net international migration, updated vital statistics and other information, and some methodological changes in the estimation process. The vast majority of the population change, however, is due to the change in base population from Census 2000 to Census 2010.

In accordance with usual practice, BLS will not revise the official household survey estimates for December 2011 and earlier months. To show the impact of the population adjustment, however, differences in selected December 2011 labor force series based on the old and new population estimates are shown in table B.

The adjustment increased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional population in December by 1,510,000, the civilian labor force by 258,000, employment by 216,000, unemployment by 42,000, and persons not in the labor force by 1,252,000. Although the total unemployment rate was unaffected, the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio were each reduced by 0.3 percentage point. This was because the population increase was primarily among persons 55 and older and, to a lesser degree, persons 16 to 24 years of age. Both these age groups have lower levels of labor force participation than the general population.”

So Rick/Zero Hedge, unless you would like to argue that the population of the United States also grew by 1.5 million in one month (since that is from the exact same report/revision you quoted), I think both of you should retract your extremely misleading statements about those not in the labor force increasing by over a million in January and simply admit that you are either too stupid or too focused on selling a particular world view to read the data correctly.

At the very least, a reputable financial news organization like CNBC needs to set the record straight on data like this as while Mr. Santelli is entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts, and the fact is 1 million people did not drop out of the labor force in January 2012.


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URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/02/no-rick-santelli-and-zero-hedge-one-million-people-did-not-drop-out-of-the-labor-force-last-month/

URLs in this post:

[1] Zero Hedge: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/record-12-million-people-fall-out-labor-force-one-month-labor-force-participation-rate-tumbles-

[2] Rick Santelli: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000071275

[3] report: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

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