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Not News: January’s Actual Payroll Job Losses, Seasonally Adjusted to Look OK, Were the Third-Worst on Record

Posted on 09 February 2016

On Friday, in its January Employment Situation Summary, the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics served up a stack of lemons disguised as lemonade. President Barack Obama declared in a tweet that "We've recovered from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s," and the press dutifully fell in line.

The BLS reported that the economy added seasonally adjusted 151,000 payroll jobs and that the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent. As has been their habit for years, business reporters failed to label either key data point as "seasonally adjusted," even though they routinely apply that label to most other government data in their dispatches on the economy. The business press almost never looks at the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) figures in any area. If they had looked at last Friday's raw jobs data, they would have wondered how the BLS could possibly have reported such a large number of additional seasonally adjusted jobs.