Saturday, August 8, 2009

Has Employment Been Rising?!

Maybe, maybe not.

The BLS offers four measures of national employment, and one of them has been rising for a while now:

  1. establishment survey, seasonally adjusted (-247,000)
  2. establishment survey, not seasonally adjusted (-333,000)
  3. household survey, seasonally adjusted (-155,000)
  4. household survey, not seasonally adjusted (+229,000). It has gone up THREE OF THE LAST FOUR MONTHS

For good reasons, the establishment survey is better for measuring monthly fluctuations, and we generally prefer seasonal adjustments to none. But that preference is based on THEORIES so, unless you are 100% sure (as opposed to 99% or less sure) about the details of those theories, you should give some weight to the other series.

Here's the graph of series 4 from

This is BLS series id LNU02000000 "(Unadj) Employment Level, in thousands".
Note that this series' employment changes from each Dec to Jan are affected by "changes in the population controls".

[Added Aug 9: If your purpose is to understand what is driving our labor market (as opposed to making a declaration as to whether employment went up or down), the seasonally unadjusted household survey may be the most informative. Tune in this wednesday morning when I explain more....]

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