The Campaign Spot

This Is Not the Jobs Number I Knew


The big news today is the latest unemployment number. It stands at 8.9% with another 539,000 jobs shed. It’s the highest unemployment number since 1983 and is up from last month’s 8.5 percent. The number is pretty much what was expected, as CNBC’s Erin Burnett noted on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, adding that the jobs-loss number was lower than expected. Not reaching the 600,000 jobs lost is an important psychologically, and it could be an indicator of a slowing in the recession, since “jobs are the last thing to recover,” Burnett said.

Hm. 600,000 is the important psychological number, you say? Let’s look at how those figures have been revised for the past eight months:

August 2008: Initially 84,000, revised to 175,000

September 2008: Initially 159,000, revised to 321,000

October 2008: Initially 240,000, revised to 380,000

November 2008: Initially 533,000, revised to 597,000

December 2008: Initially 524,000, revised to 681,000

January 2009: Initially 598,000, revised to 655,000, revised a third time to 741,000 jobs lost

February 2009: Initially 651,000, revised to 681,000

March 2009: Initially 663,000, revised to 699,000

April’s initial figure is 539,000 — which we now see is actually worse than the inital estimate of every month through December. The average revision over these past eight months has been downward another 104,000 jobs. If the pattern continued, April’s number would be 643,000, well above that important psychological number.

We’ll see what April’s revised number is, but I would be quite surprised if it didn’t put the number of jobs lost at least closer to 600,000, if not beyond it.