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The five worst things about this crummy jobs report

1) Revisions. In truth, the most important parts of any jobs report are the revisions to the past two jobs reports. That's because the initial estimate of how many jobs we added or lost in any given month is typically off by about 100,000 jobs. That's how you get situations like August 2011, when the jobs report said we created no jobs but we later learned we'd created more than 100,000.

Revisions are where we get that better information. They're the most accurate part of the unemployment numbers. And in this latest jobs report, they're a huge disappointment: "The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from +188,000 to +172,000, and the change for July was revised from +162,000 to +104,000." That means we added 74,000 fewer jobs than we thought in June and July.

2) The unemployment rate dropped for the worst reason. Unemployment dropped to 7.3 percent in August. Huzzah? Sorry, but no.

There are two reasons the unemployment rate dropped. One is that people get jobs. Huzzah! The other is that people stop looking for jobs, and so they're no longer counted as technically unemployed. That's what happened here. The number show 312,000 people dropping out of the labor force. That'll be revised, but if the truth is anywhere close, it's horrible.

3) Job creation was terrible. I know I said initial jobs reports are often misleading. And August jobs reports in particular have tended to see sharp upward revisions in recent years. But still, this report was a bummer: 169,000 jobs added. Plug that into the Hamilton Project's handy-dandy jobs gap calculator, and you'll find that this hiring pace will close the jobs gap sometime in 2023:

4) Unemployment among teenagers, African Americans and Hispanics remains insane. Among teenagers, the unemployment rate is 22.7 percent; for African Americans, it's 13 percent; for Hispanics, 9.3 percent. And remember, those numbers only count people actively looking for work. Many others would like to work but have stopped hunting for a job. In these communities, then, the job market is somewhere between an awful recession and a severe depression.

5) Our political system has given up. Forget doing something to actually help the economy. Congress is letting the sequestration crunch jobs, and Republicans are considering shutting down the government and breaching the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has been talking loudly about the need for its "taper," which is Fed-speak for removing its stimulus support from the economy.



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Jim Tankersley · September 6, 2013

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