In the previous calculation, based on a survey of businesses and government offices, the government said the economy had added 1.9 million jobs. The latest revision comes after the agency conducted a routine and more-thorough analysis based on far more detailed data.
Coming out of a deep recession in the wake of the financial crisis, the U.S. economy started growing in June 2009. The headline may give a boost to President Obama’s reelection campaign: Obama is able to say for the first time that the economy has reclaimed all the jobs it lost since January 2009, the month he entered office.
But the data are not uniformly good news. From April 2011 through March 2012, the economy lost 67,000 more government jobs than previously thought. Most public-sector jobs lost have been educator positions. Public-sector job losses have been a big drag on the recovery.
The new data also do not change some of the recent disappointing news on the economy. The nation has been adding an average of only 96,000 jobs per month over the past three months, barely adequate to keep up with the growth of the overall population. Economists and researchers generally say that the nation needs to add more than 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.
“The jobs recovery over the last 2.5 years has been a bit stronger than initially reported, although much work remains to be done to return to full employment,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a blog post Thursday.
With the revision, Krueger and Obama’s other supporters are touting a different number, saying that 5.1 million private-sector jobs have been created during Obama’s term. Obama has routinely cited this figure in the past, but it ignores two points: public-sector job losses and the fact that the number starts at the low point in hiring, not the entirety of the president’s term.
The data revisions are routine. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forges its first assessment of job growth by surveying businesses and government employers. It revises that several times as more survey results come in.
Then, twice a year, it conducts a far more comprehensive analysis by looking at state unemployment insurance records, which cover nearly every employer. This allows the agency to get a far more precise analysis of how many jobs were gained or lost in a given industry.
The new numbers, which are preliminary, have a bit of an apples-and-oranges problem. Economists, policymakers and the media generally focus on jobs figures that are adjusted to reflect seasonal trends — for example, hiring lots of retail workers around the holidays. The revised data have not been seasonally adjusted, but the overall trends are likely to hold.
Final assessments, released in February and seasonally adjusted, have not significantly changed the earlier finding.