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Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:46 PM

A 'misclassification error' made the May unemployment rate look better than it is.

Source: Washington Post

When the U.S. government’s official jobs report for May came out on Friday, it included a note at the bottom saying there had been a major “error” indicating that the unemployment rate likely should be higher than the widely reported 13.3 percent rate.

The special note said that if this “misclassification error” had not occurred, the “overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported,” meaning the unemployment rate would be about 16.3 percent for May.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that puts out the monthly jobs reports, said it was working to fix the problem.

“BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking additional steps to address the issue,” said a note at the bottom of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/05/may-2020-jobs-report-misclassification-error/

62 replies, 5849 views

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Reply A 'misclassification error' made the May unemployment rate look better than it is. (Original post)
Suburban Warrior Jun 5 OP
Leghorn21 Jun 5 #1
bronxiteforever Jun 5 #2
Leghorn21 Jun 5 #3
regnaD kciN Jun 6 #55
Yavin4 Jun 6 #57
jayddrew Jun 5 #4
Mr.Bill Jun 5 #10
DallasNE Jun 6 #28
IthinkThereforeIAM Jun 6 #39
progree Jun 6 #41
dem4decades Jun 5 #5
Wellstone ruled Jun 5 #6
Eugene Jun 5 #7
DallasNE Jun 6 #29
not fooled Jun 6 #32
NRaleighLiberal Jun 5 #8
kysrsoze Jun 5 #9
Igel Jun 5 #18
DallasNE Jun 6 #30
progree Jun 6 #42
DallasNE Jun 6 #49
progree Jun 6 #50
DallasNE Jun 5 #11
Hoyt Jun 5 #12
John Fante Jun 5 #13
DallasNE Jun 6 #31
gopiscrap Jun 5 #14
Botany Jun 5 #15
Lucky Luciano Jun 5 #16
Brainfodder Jun 5 #19
Nevilledog Jun 6 #37
D_Master81 Jun 6 #26
Miguelito Loveless Jun 5 #17
mahatmakanejeeves Jun 6 #51
IronLionZion Jun 5 #20
paleotn Jun 5 #21
angrychair Jun 5 #22
Blue Owl Jun 5 #23
Cryptoad Jun 5 #24
mahatmakanejeeves Jun 6 #52
not_the_one Jun 6 #25
SergeStorms Jun 6 #27
Wuddles440 Jun 6 #53
SergeStorms Jun 6 #56
Midnight Writer Jun 6 #33
soldierant Jun 6 #34
Jim__ Jun 6 #35
Beartracks Jun 6 #36
cstanleytech Jun 6 #38
progree Jun 6 #40
progree Jun 6 #43
maddogesq Jun 6 #44
progree Jun 6 #45
Hugin Jun 6 #46
Karma13612 Jun 6 #47
JI7 Jun 6 #48
regnaD kciN Jun 6 #54
Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin Jun 6 #58
BadGimp Jun 7 #59
ck4829 Jun 8 #60
ck4829 Friday #61
area51 Friday #62

Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:49 PM

1. Wat dis?? An..."error", you say?

Well, have yourself A REALLY SHITTY EVENING, BUNKERBOI

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:50 PM

2. Kick and recommend for visibility

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:52 PM

3. So all those sweaty liars in the garden today pretty much look like idiots now, right

YOU BETCHA

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Response to Leghorn21 (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 05:44 PM

55. No, because the narrative has been set...

People have already heard that "Trump's economy recovered much better than expected," and that's the way things are to them. They won't bother to read a lot of dry figures at the bottom of a "correction" story on page 5 of the next day's paper.

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Response to regnaD kciN (Reply #55)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 06:31 PM

57. it's the Mueller report redux.

Get the headline out there and no one will recall the correction later. To this day, most people think that the Mueller report exonerated Trump.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:53 PM

4. Was this intentional to make the numbers look better thn they were?

Why this month does this occur? And how convenient for Trump to be able to tout numbers that 99% of Americans who even pay attention won't know aren't correct. This from the president who spent years claiming the numbers weren't reliable anyway.

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Response to jayddrew (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:01 PM

10. Yes, remember during Obama's entire term,

the republicans were always saying, "Yeah, but the real unemployment rate is..."

Trump said it all through his campaign, too. Sometimes claiming it was as high as 30%.

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Response to jayddrew (Reply #4)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:26 AM

28. An Order Had To Go Out

Otherwise the numbers would have looked much like April (fine, a little better) where 20.5 million jobs were lost but nothing like the blockbuster number reported. This was clearly done for the days photo op. The House needs testimony on why the change in characterization of these workers recently laid off and still employed rather than unemployed. The whole staff started to report these people differently so not a clerical error. Trump ordered up a photo op and he got one.

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Response to DallasNE (Reply #28)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:57 AM

39. Bingo...


... you said it.

KICK

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Response to DallasNE (Reply #28)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 03:54 AM

41. Huh? The 2.5 M reported gain in jobs came from the Establishment Survey, not the Household Survey.

The Household Survey, not the Establishment Survey, is the one that had the misclassification error.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:54 PM

5. The error is believing anything Trump's Administration says.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:56 PM

6. From day one of this Adminstration,

Trump stood in the Rose Garden and bragged about making the Employment Numbers always look great. They are just numbers and I will always promise you great numbers.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:56 PM

7. Just tonight, Paul Krugman told us he trusts the professionalism of BLS staff.

Amateurishly done, but it looks like Trump Co. just took out another institution.

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Response to Eugene (Reply #7)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:32 AM

29. They Did Put The Footnote In The Report Saying

The impact of this mischaracterization was to understate the unemployment rate by about 3% making the magnitude absolutely huge. It doesn't look like a clerical error to me though. Somebody order the new, incorrect characterization.

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Response to Eugene (Reply #7)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:55 AM

32. Didn't Krugman state

that the head or some Executive branch high up appointee in the BLS was from the Heriturd Fuckdation? i.e. a kochbot in there.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:58 PM

8. just feeding the trump bullshit machine, that little error....

what tremendous bullshit.

Everything trump touches dies.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:59 PM

9. FFS? Then why don't they adjust or issue a correction

Disgusting.

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Response to kysrsoze (Reply #9)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:27 PM

18. Because it was in the original report. It wasn't an "error" per se.

If it's in the actual report, there's no correction needed. It's like having the NYT print a correction, "Correction: Yesterday the front page said it was Thursday, June 4, 2020. We'd like to correct that horrible error and say that it was correct, yesterday was Thursday, June 4, 2020. We apologize for the error of not being wrong, and would like to assure you that we won't do it again."

But they had to say something to acknowledge reality. They're interested in accuracy. But they have another purpose in mind.

To change the data processing method is a long process because their purpose isn't your purpose. They can't leave Friday with the orders, "Think about how to revise the process. We'll blue-sky on Monday, revise Tuesday, finalize on Wednesday and roll it out on Friday." Nope, can't do that. They're thinking long term, not "what can I use this for in politics today." They want the numbers for this month to be able to be compared with the numbers for the previous 20 Mays, and easily compared to the next few Mays' numbers. You can't just revise things on the fly because politics.

Their purpose means they have to collect the numbers in the same way and crunch them in the same way month after month. That's not negotiable, or at least isn't easily negotiable.

They revise their procedures every couple of decades. But the process is laborious because they still need to make sure that the numbers can be compared, before and after revision. That means they devise the new procedure, they bounce it around and pilot it for a few months. If it passes, then they run them in parallel for a few months, maybe a year. Then they figure out the relation of the old method to the new method, to ensure that they can be compared. Then the new method is introduced in parallel to train the people that actually need the information, then finally the new method is all there is.

We've had two, maybe three months of weirded-out data. They wouldn't be ready for the first field test yet. Much less publishing any results.

That leaves a best-guess ad-hoc "we know our data are wrong for these reasons, and we think this is the corrective." Might be. Might not be. But attributing ill will and duplicity to people just doing their jobs just shows hostility to strangers that haven't wronged you in the least, taking out your frustration on the wrong people.

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Response to Igel (Reply #18)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:43 AM

30. Yes, This is How It Is Supposed To Be Done

"they have to collect the numbers in the same way and crunch them in the same way month after month."

That isn't what happened in May, however. Somebody had to order this change. We would need to see the order to determine how innocent it might have been. But I concur, it would not have been the rank and file going rogue.

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Response to DallasNE (Reply #30)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 04:02 AM

42. The same kind of thing happened in March and April.

March was "almost 1 percentage point", April was "almost 5 percentage points", and May was "about 3 percentage points" off.

The May report had this language. So did the March and April reports, except for the amount of the error:

If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to “other reasons” (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical May) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis). However, according to usual practice, the data from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses.


What "change" in May was "ordered"?

BTW, this doesn't affect the 2.5 M job gains number, that comes from a separate survey.

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Response to progree (Reply #42)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:46 PM

49. That Compounds The Problem

How can you count these as job gains if they weren't counted as job losses in prior months. This is like double counting the jobs. They were previously counted as employed and are now counted again as job gains. It is certainly misleading.

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Response to DallasNE (Reply #49)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 01:24 PM

50. They are two completely separate surveys -- the 2.5 million jobs gain comes from the Establishment

Survey which didn't have this classification error.

The count of Unemployed and Unemployment rate comes from the Household Survey, a completely different and completely separate survey with different methodologies, which has had the classification error for 3 months in a row now: March, April, and May.





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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:06 PM

11. I Have Been Trying To Call This To Attention All Day

This could have been the reason the March and April jobs report were revised downward by 642,000 meaning those reports, as grim as they were, were also rosy. In April the number of jobs initially reported as lost was 20.5 million. The actual number in May was likely around 16.5 million rather than the 2.5 million added, as reported today. This is more than a misclassification error. This was a colossal error that should cause somebody to lose their job. Indeed, was it deliberate just so Trump could gloat about it (inappropriately) today.

The House needs the head of BLS to testify under oath on how this error could have possibly happened. What changed from last month? Some kind of order went out.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:09 PM

12. Fortunately, even the financial websites have discussed the issue, acknowledging

actual rate is higher.

But, it is a bit encouraging that the rate was a bit better than expected. Similar results in Canada as well.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:09 PM

13. That Trump would completely gloss over this is hardly surprising.

But what's the msm's excuse?! The headlines practically emmited an orange hue of positivity over the "surprisingly good" job numbers. It's like they can't wait to give Cheeto a win for something, anything. Even if it's not a win at all.

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Response to John Fante (Reply #13)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:45 AM

31. Horserace

MSM wants a horserace for the revenue that generates so they will prop Trump up for the next 5 months.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:12 PM

14. trump's a fucking liar

I hope this is reported widely

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:12 PM

15. An error?

I don't buy that. 3 points higher is a hell of a mistake.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:16 PM

16. George Floyd will be unhappy about this looking down from above.

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Response to Lucky Luciano (Reply #16)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:27 PM

19. WWGFD!

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Response to Brainfodder (Reply #19)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:22 AM

37. Perfect!

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Response to Lucky Luciano (Reply #16)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:18 AM

26. Thought of this too

And here George Floyd was having such a great day. Hate to see it

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:22 PM

17. Anybody know where this footnote appears?

There are dozens of tables for this report.

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Response to Miguelito Loveless (Reply #17)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 01:47 PM

51. The text of the BLS report is here:

I didn't provide links to all the tables, but you can go to the BLS and see them.

From the source. The BLS says that employment went up by 2.5 M. Not unemployment.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:31 PM

20. The error seems legit, but the spin on it is pure GOP propaganda

since they know fully well that it will boost the stock market (it did) and they can discredit the BLS as a bunch of deep state socialists next.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:33 PM

21. I call humongous BS

If you're releasing something this important, and you're getting numbers that don't make sense.....you don't release jack shit until you figure out what's driving it. The original numbers were cooked, and I bet some folks threatened to expose the games unless they came clean.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:53 PM

23. Has little Donny been playing with his Sharpie again?

n/t

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jun 5, 2020, 11:56 PM

24. cooking them books

Bls bean counters... Joe needs to get rid of the whole crew

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Response to Cryptoad (Reply #24)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 01:51 PM

52. Joe can't get rid of the whole crew, as they are by and large civil servants, which

is as it should be.

Only a handful are political appointees.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:06 AM

25. Wall Street.

"HIS" economy is based on Wall Street. He has to get the stocks going up again.

And Wall Street does nothing but respond in computer choreographed "knee jerks". The slightest "sign" is interpreted in a way that causes the knee to jerk, making more trades, earning brokers more fees.

Wall Street goes up due to the "error", so they report the "error", and it may go down some, but not as much as it went up, so they made money off of the "error".

Wall Street should be required to set up an account for every single American, so we ALL could receive the benefits of the rigged, computerized trading bonanza. We ALL should be able to sit back and make money off or our money. You never know, we may never have to work another day in our lives. After all, WE buy the products that corporations make a tonne of money off of, money coming directly from our pockets, THEN Wall Street also gets more profits from the selling of the stocks of those companies that WE make successful.

They make trillions. It would be nice if each of us got a few thousand a year off of OUR money in Wall Street. Every little bit helps.

I honestly don't know whether to include the smilie, or not...

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Response to not_the_one (Reply #25)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 12:26 AM

27. And Wall Street went nuts over the news today...

will we have an equally shitty day Monday? I wouldn't count on it. Wall Street has no basis in reality anymore. Investors seem to think there is limitless perpetual growth in the market. Sheep. More sheep (like evangelicals) that follow republicans around like they're the Pied Piper of Hamelin. One day the music is going to stop, and there's going to be a shitload of dunderheads left without chairs.

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Response to SergeStorms (Reply #27)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:45 PM

53. Powell and the Fed.....

have flooded the market with liquidity and have instituted policies for a moral hazard. Investors are confident that they'll be bailed out by the Fed and possibly Congress no matter how reckless they get.

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Response to Wuddles440 (Reply #53)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 06:12 PM

56. Sooner or later...

someone is going to have to pay the piper. If they're going to just keep printing money inflation is going to catch up to us sooner or later.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 01:11 AM

33. Bartcop's Law: When someone makes an "error" that profits them, expect to see that same error again

and again and again.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 01:43 AM

34. I understand what a "classification error" would be, but

what's a "misclassification error"? You got caught?

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:02 AM

35. Yes and the error was found just in time for the Friday night news dump.

I hope the media blasts away at this for the entire weekend and into next week. And loudly recalls this error whenever the Trumpists announce unexpected good news.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:14 AM

36. And 2 + 2 5.

"It's really X, but we OFFICIALLY stated that it's Y, so... It's Y."

==============

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 02:50 AM

38. Error my ass!!! More like Trump and his people trying to cook the books is my bet.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 03:49 AM

40. March and April also had the same problem. March was "almost 1 percentage point",

April was "almost 5 percentage points", and May was "about 3 percentage points" off (i.e. the unemployment rates in the respective months would be higher by these amounts were it not for these mis-classification errors).

Using corrected values for both April and May, the unemployment rate dropped from almost 19.7% in April to about 16.3% in May.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 04:12 AM

43. No need to hunt around for non-paywalled articles. It's right in the BLS report summary

and main report. In a big box. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

(this in response to a couple of replies in this thread, not to the OP).

(I bolded the last paragraph)
_______________________________________________________________________________________
| Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on May 2020 Establishment and Household Survey Data
|
|
| Data collection for both surveys was affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
| In the establishment survey, approximately one-fifth of the data is collected at four
| regional data collection centers. Although these centers were closed, about three-
| quarters of the interviewers at these centers worked remotely to collect data by
| telephone. Additionally, BLS encouraged businesses to report electronically. The
| collection rate for the establishment survey in May was 69 percent, slightly lower
| than collection rates prior to the pandemic. The household survey is generally
| collected through in-person and telephone interviews, but personal interviews were
| not conducted for the safety of interviewers and respondents. The household survey
| response rate, at 67 percent, was about 15 percentage points lower than in months
| prior to the pandemic.
|
| In the establishment survey, workers who are paid by their employer for all or any
| part of the pay period including the 12th of the month are counted as employed, even
| if they were not actually at their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently
| absent from their jobs and are not being paid are not counted as employed, even if
| they are continuing to receive benefits.
|
| The estimation methods used in the establishment survey were the same for May as they
| were for April. However, after further research, BLS extended the modifications that
| were made to the April birth-death model back to March, which accounted for a portion
| of the revision to March data. For more information, see
| www.bls.gov/cps/employment-situation-covid19-faq-may-2020.pdf.
|
| In the household survey, individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not
| in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions about their
| activities during the survey reference week (May 10th through May 16th). Workers who
| indicate they were not working during the entire survey reference week and expect to
| be recalled to their jobs should be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. In
| May, a large number of persons were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff.
|
| However, there was also a large number of workers who were classified as employed but
| absent from work. As was the case in March and April, household survey interviewers
| were instructed to classify employed persons absent from work due to coronavirus-
| related business closures as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, it is apparent
| that not all such workers were so classified. BLS and the Census Bureau are
| investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking
| additional steps to address the issue.
|
| If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to "other
| reasons" (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical May) had
| been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate
| would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally
| adjusted basis). However, according to usual practice, the data from the household
| survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are
| taken to reclassify survey responses.

|
| More information is available at
| www.bls.gov/cps/employment-situation-covid19-faq-may-2020.pdf.
______________________________________________________________________________________

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 04:25 AM

44. Hate to keep harping on this...

but look at the U6. It’s down about a point to 21.2%. This one is the real deal and a more accurate reflection of what’s going on.

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

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Response to maddogesq (Reply #44)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 06:10 AM

45. And its also low by about 3 percentage points, since the U3 unemployed is a subset of U6's unemployd

Likely more, since almost certainly some of those in U6 that aren't in U3 were also misclassified. OTOH, the denominator of U6 is larger than U3 (its complicated). But anyway, add 3% to 21.2% and we're at 24.2%.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 07:54 AM

46. I personally know two people who lost their jobs in the period.

Up from zero... Ever.

I don't trust any numbers on anything coming out of the Feds right now and even less the numbers from Wall Street.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 08:19 AM

47. I suspected that all along.

The fudged numbers caused a spike in the stock market. Since tRump relies on the market to fuel his reelection support, I am convinced the jobs report was fiddled with.

Surprise surprise.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 08:22 AM

48. 13.3 isn't anything to celebrate

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 05:43 PM

54. "Misclassification Error"...? Sounds like the political "Wardrobe Malfunction"...

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sat Jun 6, 2020, 09:55 PM

58. So this is what Donny Dotard is crowing about?

Lowered expectations I guess.

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Sun Jun 7, 2020, 04:34 PM

59. That liddle "misclassification" caused the Unemployment Rate to jump 24.8%

How perfect the timing right? Likely an honest mistake on the part of a lot of people right?

WTF did they hide to cause this?

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Mon Jun 8, 2020, 02:46 AM

60. Kick

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jul 10, 2020, 07:38 AM

61. Kick

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Response to Suburban Warrior (Original post)

Fri Jul 10, 2020, 01:31 PM

62. "... this misclassification error continues to occur...."


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