Business Employment Dynamics & NFP

On Thursday, we discussed another employment measure, assembled from the quarterly census of state unemployment insurance records.

This measure is discussed in much greater detail this week in the Liscio Report, via Barron’s Alan Abelson:

"UNLESS THE WORLD IMPLODES BEFORE THEN, this Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics is slated to release May’s employment report. As the big day approaches, Wall Street, as it always does, will indulge in an orgy of guesswork as to what the numbers will be. That this is destined to prove an exercise in futility will not deter for a moment the participants from repeating it a month hence.

Actually, these cockeyed Nostradamuses are more deserving of sympathy than contempt. For apart from their own fallibility — which, since so many are card-carrying economists, is considerable — their prophecies are prey to the even more considerable whims, quirks and fantasies of Uncle Sam’s data assemblers.

Just how much such idiosyncracies distort the actual count of the gainfully employed and, by extension, of those out of work, is hard to pin down to the last decimal. But that it can be huge is evident in another report issued last week by that same Bureau of Labor Statistics (which might better be called the Bureau of Labored Statistics). It’s called Business Employment Dynamics, and we’d been in blissful ignorance of its existence until enlightened by that diligent duo, Philippa Dunne and Doug Henwood, responsible for the Liscio Report.

As Philippa and Doug explain, this series reports detailed gross job gains and losses in the private sector based on nearly complete coverage "of the employment universe provided by the unemployment insurance system." More painstaking than the familiar monthly surveys of employment, the tally is published with a lag of several quarters; the one released earlier this month, for example, was for the third quarter of 2006. What it showed, though, was eye-opening.

Thus, compared with a gain for the quarter of 442,000 jobs reported in the so-called establishment survey, the Business Employment Dynamics, or BED, reckoning was a scant 19,000 additions. In manufacturing, the 9,000 jobs lost according to the payroll figures balloon into a loss of 95,000 jobs in the BED data; the improbable 20,000 additions in construction (think: housing) turns into a loss of 77,000 by BED’s measure; the 507,000 gain in private services shrinks to 108,00. And so it goes. Or, more accurately, so goes the job mirage.

One likely culprit, Philippa and Doug suggest, is that curious concoction known as the "birth/death" model used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the gains/losses in jobs from the launching and demise of businesses. Thanks to this voodoo calculation, 156,000 were added in last year’s third quarter and a hefty 388,000 in the opening four months of this year. Nice going, indeed, considering that first-quarter GDP growth probably, when the dust clears, will have fallen below 1%, and April was a punk month.

All of which, among other things, solves a puzzle that seems to have bothered quite a few people: namely, how can the economy be running out of steam when there’s relatively little unemployment? The answer, pure and simple, is that there are significantly fewer folks working and significantly more folks out of a job than the official payroll numbers would have you believe. The next time someone assures you that the employment picture is bright, make sure he smiles when he says that. (emphasis added)

As we have laboriously argued over the past few years, this has not been a great post-recession cycle for private sector job creation. It has been a boom time, however, for creative accounting in government measurements. 

The bottom line: New job creation has been mediocre, and wildly overstated by BLS since changes made to measuring jobs in 2001.



Swarm of Analysts
Barron’s MONDAY, MAY 28, 2007

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Psychology

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Friday Evening Jazz: Oscar Peterson

Exclusively_for_my_friends_box_setTonite’s guest host for FNJ is a music insider. Although he is known better for many of the newer acts he represents, he is, surprisngly enough, a closet jazz aficionado, and therefore must remain anonymous.

Here’s his take on the O-man:

Oscar Peterson has been recording and performing for over half a century. He may also be the most recorded of all piano players. (And he’s from Canada).

Oscar bridged the swing and bop eras, rooting himself in a style that was at the same time stunningly complex yet elegant and soulful.  Nobody used more notes to swing! Oscar is sometimes dismissed because he wasn’t groundbreaking in the way that many of his contemporaries were. But the range of expression he achieved on the piano, and his technical prowess, is hardly rivaled in mainstream jazz.

Trio_2 Many consider his solo recordings of the late 60s and early 70s to be his most outstanding work, but I was always partial to his trio recordings both with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen and later with Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson. The live album "The Trio" from 1973 (not to be confused with a Verve release of the same title) is a great recording of Oscar with Pass and Pederson and shows Oscar at his most virtuosic. Check out the Brown Thigpen work live here.

Satch_and_joshFor a
compendium of his 60s work in both trio and solo settings, the
excellent box set "Exclusively for My Friends" will keep you
entertained for years. Of course, there are the standard "songbook"
albums (George Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.) and the duets with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Clark Terry and
Dizzy Gillespie.

Night_trainBut if I had to pick one place to start, and on a
Friday night with your favorite Bordeaux, it would be the 1962 album "Night Train" with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen

It showcases Oscar at his best on both ballads and uptempo numbers and he really shows his blues chops. In particular, note the title track, Bags’ Groove (one the great jazz classics), Moten Swing and Elllington’s great C-Jam Blues. The bonus tracks added to the reissue aren’t particularly special, but don’t diminish Peterson’s brilliance on this record.



(videos after the jump)


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