So the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that it is revising its jobs count, to include an additional 386,000 nonfarm jobs that were created from March of 2011 to March of 2012.
Jobs numbers are only one metric for measuring economic improvement, so we shouldn’t overstate their significance. This new finding, however, does matter politically in a few key ways. First, as Justin Wolfers points out, the added jobs means that there has no longer been a “net” loss of jobs on Obama’s watch. As you know, Romney has been saying for a very long time now that the “net” jobs lost on Obama’s watch proves his policies failed. That’s a bogus metric, because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in each of the first few months of Obama’s term, before those policies went into effect.
But putting that aside, net jobs were now actually gained on Obama’s watch. So, in theory at least, Romney has been deprived of one of the talking points that has been central to his candidacy for a year now. That talking point was crucial for Romney, because it enabled him to make the (nonsensical) case that Obama destroyed jobs overall.
By the way: If Romney objects to incorporating BLS’s new revisions into his jobs count, he should know that in 2004, the George W. Bush White House relied on BLS revisions to improve its own jobs count.
The new BLS revision actually finds 453,000 total additional private sector jobs were created. It is revising the total upwards by only 386,000 because it also discovered that an additional 67,000 public sector jobs were lost — another indication that government cuts may have been a bit more of a drag on the recovery than previously thought.
Ultimately, if you add in the additional 453,000, that pushes the total private sector jobs created since March of 2010, the first month that jobs were created on Obama’s watch, to over five million. That’s because the previous BLS totals for that period were 4.62 million. Add in the new 453,000 and that makes over five million. Expect Obama to start claiming that we now know that over the past 30 months, the economy added over five million jobs.
The revised jobs numbers do suggest that one reason Obama seems to be defying political gravity may be that the economy was doing a bit better than previously thought. But again, jobs numbers alone are overhyped as a determinant of how people are really experiencing the economy, which is far more complicated than one metric can capture. Indeed, these new numbers remind us that the monthly jobs numbers are also unreliable and subject to revision. So let’s hope that we can keep this in mind when the political world is again tempted to overhype the impact the forthcoming September jobs report will have on the race.
UPDATE: Steve Benen notes an important point: The additional public sector job loss BLS located is the result of the sort of austerity measures Republicans favor.