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Think Again about That ‘Good’ Jobs Report



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Today’s jobs report is a classic. The report, of course, reveals the results of two surveys, one of households, one of establishments. The professional economists and the press usually emphasize the establishment survey because it is viewed as less volatile. The establishment survey was terrible. The 114,000 number of jobs created on net in September is well below the average for this year (146,000) and the average for last year (153,000). This is wholly consistent with the story that the economy is decelerating sharply as we head into the fall.

The household survey, on the other hand, portrays a September that was booming, far more so than could possibly be true given the other indicators. According to it, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, with total employment jumping by a whopping 873,000. I wish it were true, but it will likely be a blip when we have a few more months of data.

Back when President Bush presided over a jobless recovery, the household survey tended to show better news. At the time, every media organization carefully emphasized the establishment numbers, and warned that the household numbers are suspect. That, of course, is what happens when a Republican is in office. For President Obama, you can expect a household survey lovefest. The AP story that went up at 8:33, of course, emphasized the household survey, even adding, “The decline could help Obama, who is coming off a disappointing debate against Mitt Romney.” Get ready for more of the same.

— Kevin A. Hassett is director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and serves as an economic adviser to the Romney campaign.



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