Percent Job Losses in Post WWII Recessions, calculatedriskblog.com

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Once again, the economic community is scrambling to find the reasons why they were suprised by the March 2012 jobs report. The monthly report from ADP had private sector jobs at 209K increase for March 2012 which apparently led many economists to predict a similar number for the official report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released on Friday.

Oops. Wrong again.

We have been seeing stories such as this from today’s NY Times about the “strong” jobs growth from earlier this year:

Although signs pointed to a strengthening economy earlier this year, the jobs report on Friday came with a message: don’t get ahead of yourself.

The country’s employers added a disappointing 120,000 jobs in March, about half the net gains posted in each of the preceding three months. The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of households rather than employers, slipped to 8.2 percent, from 8.3 percent, as a smaller portion of the population looked for work.

120K jobs is not much more than is necessary to maintain the status quo of population growth (90K is the figure Dean Baker uses) and even 200K, while growing, does not appreciably put a dent in the long term un and underemployment rates. When there are 13M to 14M unemployed and 25M to 30M un and underemployed, 200K jobs is just not going to help all that much.

Surprisingly to me, the Benbernank may have been more realistic than many others (via Bloomberg.) Of course, the article goes on to quote Fed regional presidents as saying that the numbers, no matter how soft, probably won’t cause the Fed to actually, you know, do something to ease the un and underemployment problem. No matter that a primary part of the stated Federal Reserve Mission statement is to pursue “maximum” employment.

It does appear that the consensus being reported is to blame the warm weather from January and February for the lighter number for March. Here’s Dean Baker’s take:

The slower job growth shown in the establishment survey in March likely reflected the fact that good weather pulled forward a lot of hiring so that workers who might typically have been hired in March instead found jobs in January and February. This is most obviously the case in construction, which showed a loss of 7,000 jobs after showing an average gain of 13,000 in the prior three months. Weather may also explain the decline of 14,200 jobs in employment services (the broader temp category) after the sector added an average of 45,600 jobs the prior three months.

The Washington Post presented this perspective this way:

Economists say the mild winter has artificially inflated job growth. February alone stole as many as 72,000 positions from March and future months, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.

Translation: The surge in hiring early in the year may not be as strong as it appeared.

The Post then goes on to “explain” things in an attempt to cushion the problem:

Typically, these bumps in demand are evened out through a process called seasonal adjustment. That allows researchers to compare one month’s economic activity with the next for a more accurate picture of the nation’s health. But this year’s weather was so abnormal that those models fell short, and economists are now scrambling to figure out how much of the growth over the past three months was simply due to a glitch in their systems.

Ah, just a “glitch in the system!” The Post ends their reporting with the rose-colored glasses firmly in place:

Typically, these bumps in demand are evened out through a process called seasonal adjustment. That allows researchers to compare one month’s economic activity with the next for a more accurate picture of the nation’s health. But this year’s weather was so abnormal that those models fell short, and economists are now scrambling to figure out how much of the growth over the past three months was simply due to a glitch in their systems.

…snip…

And despite the hand-wringing over the weather, economists seem to agree that the fundamentals of the recovery are solid. Bob Baur, global chief economist for Principal Global Investors, said he believes that the second half of the year will pick up steam as state and local governments enjoy rebounds in tax revenue and layoffs slow down.

MSNBC is showing the pretty face of the jobs picture in a similar fashion as the Post with it all just being “quirks” in the data.

The NY Times did have a report on what they termed “permabears,” i.e., those economists who are skeptical of the strength of the US and global economies.

I’m on an email list from Monster.com and received one a couple of days ago on “Industry News.” It included a link to an article on “Five High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs“:

1. Optometrist
2. Materials Scientist
3. Economist
4. Aeronautical Engineer
5. User Experience Designer

Since Economists seem to personify the old cliche, “Often wrong but never in doubt” it is no surprise at all that they are both highly paid and low stress. They suffer no repercussions for being wrong. Unlike the 25M to 30M long term un and underemployed who have to listen to their tap dances.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor