Robert Samuelson in today’s WaPo: “There are grounds for hope. One is that job losses are exaggerated. The government has two employment surveys: a payroll survey of 400,000 business establishments (firms report how many people they employ) and a survey of 60,000 households (people are asked who’s working and who’s looking for work). Only the payroll survey shows continuing job losses. The household survey indicates a 1.8 million gain since January 2002. The payroll survey misses hiring by new companies, goes the argument; they are not in the sample. Unfortunately, the case is shaky. About 60 percent of the reported job gain occurred in one month (January 2003) and seems mostly to reflect statistical adjustments. Another question mark involves a huge jump in the self-employed, almost 600,000 in a year; many of these ‘jobs’ may be wishful thinking.
“The stronger case for optimism lies elsewhere.”