Bad News Coming On The Employment Front?

A mid-month survey from Gallup suggests that the February Jobs Report could hold some bad news for the economy, and the President:

PRINCETON, NJ — The U.S. unemployment rate, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 9.0% in mid-February, up from 8.6% for January. The mid-month reading normally reflects what the U.S. government reports for the entire month, and is up from 8.3% in mid-January.

Gallup’s mid-month unemployment reading, based on the 30 days ending Feb. 15, serves as a preliminary estimate of the U.S. government report, and suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely report on the first Friday of March that its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in February. Gallup found that unemployment decreased to 8.3% in its mid-January report, and suggested that the U.S. unemployment rate the BLS reported for January would decline.

Gallup also finds 10.0% of U.S. employees in mid-February are working part time but want full-time work, essentially the same as in January. The mid-February reading means the percentage of Americans who can only find part-time work remains close to its high since Gallup began measuring employment status in January 2010.

Underemployment, a measure that combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed with the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, is 19.0% in mid-February. This is higher than the 18.7% recorded for January, and is up significantly compared with January’s mid-month reading of 18.1

The Gallup numbers haven’t precisely tracked the official numbers from the BLS, partly because Gallup doesn’t do the same kind of seasonal adjustments to the numbers that the government does before reporting numbers, however the trends have been largely identical even if the numbers haven’t exactly matched up. For that reason alone, a large jump in the Gallup numbers is concerning if only because it indicates the possibility that the six or so months of positive jobs reports that we’ve had through January may hit a bump in the road in February. Several factors could be responsible for this, including growth that is positive but far from being strong enough to support sustained jobs growth, and the fact that businesses may be starting to plan ahead to reflect the anticipated increases in fuel costs that are expected to start hitting the economy in the coming months.

Whatever the reason, though, and assuming we’re just not looking at a statistical anomaly here,  this is a potential stumble that could suggest the economy is running into the same early spring slowdown we saw last year.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. bluepen9uin says:

    Good thing we are focused on social issues or we might have to find a solution to the economy. phew.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    this is a potential stumble that could suggest the economy is running into the same early spring slowdown we saw last year.

    I guess that’s why yesterday we had the lowest new requests for unemployment benefits for four years.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 13,000 to 348,000 last week, the fourth drop in five weeks, and the lowest number of claims in nearly four years, according to the Labor Department. Or then there are the Gallup numbers.
    Shorter Doug: “I hate Obama.”
    Other positive news Doug had to totally ignore in order to search out something gloomy to say based on the Gallup BS:
    * E-Commerce is up 5.8%…the best quarter in five years.
    * Privately-owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000. This is 1.5 percent (±16.8%) above the revised December estimate of 689,000 and is 9.9 percent (±14.2%) above the January 2011 rate of 636,000.
    * GM reported record (nominal) profits for 2011.
    Doug seems to have two themes. I hate Obama. And Both Sides Do It. I’m sure if you went back through the archives every post would fall into one of these two catagories.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    Norm,

    “Shorter Doug: “I hate Obama.””

    Actually, I’d put the Shorter as “Obama’s policies contradict my deeply held beliefs in Randian Utopianism. Therefore, they cannot be succeeding.”

  5. Don’t argue with me, argue with Gallup.

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m sure that later today we’ll get a post decrying the auto bailout while simultaneously ignoring the GM earnings report from earlier in the week.

  7. Gromitt,

    If all you want to read are posts about how Barack Obama is the greatest thing since sliced bread I suggest you spend your day at Daily Kos.

  8. Jr says:

    Gallup had unemployment ticking up last month and the exact opposite happened. The truth of the matter is the job market is healing, and to some degree accelerating. Unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest in about five months.

    This post seems your grasping at straws, Doug.

  9. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “If all you want to read are posts about how Barack Obama is the greatest thing since sliced bread I suggest you spend your day at Daily Kos.”

    And if we wanted to read how he is turning this country into a socialist wasteland, we’d be reading Redstate. Unfortunately, far too many of your posts look like they belong there.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    From the OTB Stylebook:
    Cherry picking reports to support your well established bias = unbiased punditry.

  11. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Dude, you’ve (collectively) already lost the majority of your wingnuts commenters because you’re all a bunch of “RINO”s. Now you want the the center-left commenters (i.e. the vast majority of your commenters) to leave as well? Where do plan to get the pagehits from?

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Shorter Doug: “I hate Obama.”

    OK. Now I feel the need to defend Doug. He does not “hate” Obama. He hates Obama’s economic policies. He finds it very difficult to admit when one of the things Obama did (GM, Chrysler) actually worked. He consistently denigrates any of Obama’s foreign policy achievements by saying Obama is just doing what any Republican would do (OBL for instance…. No not that one…. Uhhh Israel. Nah not that one either….. I’ll think of something… CHINA! )(ooopps, wait a minute, Romney just said he would label China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office) or where their are distinct differences that Obama just got lucky. (OBL, Libya, tho one can not fairly say yet whether that counts as a success).

    Anyway, Doug does not hate Obama, he just hates nearly everything Obama does.

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    P.S. DKos spends most of its day shrilly attacking Obama from the left, if they talk about him at all. Why would I want to spend any time there? If you want to understand my political philosophy, just reread Steven’s article on why Obama is the moderate Republican we’ve been waiting for.

  14. Jr says:

    The only way this can be true is that more people are looking for jobs now because this poll really seems like an outlier compared to the other data that came out this week. I am no economist but if unemployment is spiking, wouldn’t unemployment benefits be over 400,000?

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Where do plan to get the pagehits from?

    Doesn’t Doug have any fellow travelers? Surely all of them haven’t Gone Galt…

  16. Tano says:

    I feel the need to defend Doug here. His article is a perfectly legitimate pointer to a story from Gallup – a perfectly respectable source.

    I certainly do not need or expect this site to only transmit news that I am happy about, or that I agree with or that I think is a flawless representation of what is going on in the real world . The last thing we need is another site that adheres to a rigid ideological filter.

    It is ridiculous to gang up on the messenger, especially for such an innocuous post. Gallup did their poll, and this is what they found. Why should we be protected from having to deal with it?

  17. anjin-san says:

    I certainly do not need or expect this site to only transmit news that I am happy about

    The lack of analysis and balance is the problem here. How one can address unemployment and not mention yesterday’s numbers on unemployment is hackery. The lame “if you don’t like it, argue with Gallup” is just the cherry on top.

  18. anjin-san says:

    I certainly do not need or expect this site to only transmit news that I am happy about

    The lack of analysis and a little balance is the problem here. How one can address unemployment and not mention yesterday’s numbers on unemployment benefits is hackery. The lame “if you don’t like it, argue with Gallup” is just the cherry on top.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    @ Tano…
    From what I understand Gallup tends to be very accurate and may very well be in this case.
    But to cherry pick the Gallup report, in a week full of good economic news, is at the least very Fox News-like. I saw the same headline at Hot-Air…so Doug is simply going to the other extreme from the Daily Kos. Even Limbaugh told his listeners to not be “dis-heartened” by the good news. Good for Doug…he went Rushbo one better by finding something bad to report.
    You want to do a post about how the economy is looking good but there are still plenty of landmines out there…good. I believe Democrats in general are getting a bit too cocky about the economy. But cherry-picking gloom and doom is nonsense.

  20. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tano: By itself – not a problem. But in context it is part of an overall trend to post links ‘gloom and doom’ economic articles with analysis supporting their position while simulatenously either ignoring or negatively covering positive economic news. To then suggest that by riffing on that observation I should limit my readings to the Great Orange Satan is a move straight out of the playbook of the Glenns, Reynolds and Greenwald.

  21. The question is whether the uptick in unemployment is do to more people losing jobs, or because labor participation rates are starting to go up as well. If it’s the later, that is actually a good sign, since it means the people who had stopped looking for work are looking again.

  22. Gulliver says:

    @All

    Since February 2009 – Obam’s “recovery”

    The number of workers who have been unable to find a job in 27 months or more has shot up 83%, with their ranks now at 5.5 million.

    Civilian labor force: It has shrunk by 126,000. In past recoveries, the labor force climbed an average of more than 3 million over comparable time periods.

    Labor force participation: The share of adults in the labor force — either looking or working — has dropped 3% — also highly unusual in a recovery. At 63.7%, labor force participation is at a low not seen since the middle of the very deep 1981-82 recession, when fewer women were in the work force. A lower participation rate makes the unemployment rate look better.

    Household income: Median annual household income is about 7% below where it was in February 2009, according to the Sentier Research Household Income Index.

    He’s done just fantastic with our 5 Trillion dollars, eh?

    He’s an empty suit dancing with shiny objects to make sure everyone is distracted enough to avoid examining his failures…

  23. Jr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That is my thinking as well, because that is the only conclusion that makes any sense giving the data that has come out the past week.

  24. Gulliver says:

    From the CBO report released yesterday discussing the Trillion dollar stimulus’ effect on the economy:

    The official unemployment rate excludes those individuals who would like to work but have not searched for a job in the past four weeks as well as those who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work; if those people were counted among the unemployed, the unemployment rate in January 2012 would have been about 15 percent. Compounding the problem of high unemployment, the share of unemployed people looking for work for more than six months—referred to as the long-term unemployed—topped 40 percent in December 2009 for the first time since 1948, when such data began to be collected; it has remained above that level ever since.

    Liberals should be proud with these results…. or medicated back to reality

  25. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Don’t argue with me, argue with Gallup.

    This is a cop out Doug. We’re not arguing with Gallup but with your interpretation of it. Gallup is just one data point and it seems to be out of kilter with a lot of other data points that are going in the other direction.

  26. Joe,

    You did notice the question mark in the post title, right?

  27. Hey Norm says:

    I mean…while you were at Gallup you could have picked up this tidbit…
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/152624/Economic-Confidence-Best-Year.aspx

  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You did notice the question mark in the post title, right?

    Question mark versus Doug’s ultimate conclusion?

    this is a potential stumble that could suggest the economy is running into the same early spring slowdown we saw last year.

    Doug, in the immortal words of Michael Corleone…..Don’t insult my intelligence.

  29. Joe,

    I’m not inclined to justify myself to you.

  30. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not inclined to justify myself to you.

    Can I be held responsible if you don’t know what a data point is?

  31. JohnMcC says:

    I personally am not offended by Mr Matacomis’ fairly dependable skepticism of the apparent success Barack’s administration is having. Some doubt is always a healthy thing to hold on to; which would be a good thing for the wingnut side of things to consider. But on this present topic, think of all the other data points that would be showing up if there were a real possibility of suddenly hundreds of thousands of Americans were going to lose their jobs in — say — the next month or two.

    And Mr Gulliver, the U-6 unemployment figure which you vaguely approximate and inarticulately define was indeed 15.1% in Jan ’12. But that is down from 17.2% in Oct ’09. And it has not been lower than 7% (except once it was 6.9% — Apr ’00) in over 12 years. So that 2.1% difference is a pretty big ‘delta’. You get an ‘F’ for the day, sir.

  32. Moosebreath says:

    “I’m not inclined to justify myself to you.”

    The last refuge of someone who knows he just lost an argument.

  33. No, Moosebreath, I’m just done talking to someone who tells my I should be writing about X instead of Y.

  34. Moosebreath says:

    I think the last several rounds of comments suggest it’s more like him saying you were writing X (an article cherry-picking data to make an unsupportable attach on Obama), while pretending you were writing Y (a neutral article).

  35. Ben Wolf says:

    There’s nothing wrong with what Doug has written, and turning this thread into a personal attack against him is an indication of weak counter-arguments.

    It’s likely we’ll see an economic slowdown as we move into summer. Global trade has sharply dropped and gasoline is once again pushing $4.00 a gallon, meaning americans will drive less and/or reduce spending to compensate for increased travel costs. I don’t expect a recession, but job growth will probably weaken again as the country continues to stumble through; better than Europe, but not nearly good enough.

    Furthermore if this happens and causes a reduction in inflation you can expect QE3 as the Fed futiley attempts to inflate the money supply.

  36. Tillman says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I think the last several rounds of comments suggest it’s more like him saying you were writing X (an article cherry-picking data to make an unsupportable attach on Obama), while pretending you were writing Y (a neutral article).

    Huh. Neutral blogging. Who’da thought?

  37. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Furthermore if this happens and causes a reduction in inflation you can expect QE3 as the Fed futiley attempts to inflate the money supply.

    There’s not going to be QE 3 but if there was as a matter of fact it would enlarge the money supply.

  38. Davebo says:

    Joe,

    I’m not inclined to justify myself to you.

    Or anyone else it seems. As is said, if you don’t want you’re penis slapped, don’t put it out there.

    Because let’s face it, you seem to put it out there multiple times per day.

  39. Turner says:

    I know that many people will find this hard to follow and perceive, but I feel that the continued problems in this country, problems that have been on going, are direct results of the War of Secession that was fought from 1861 – 1865, but strife was occurring before the official start of this horrific, costly conflict, one that has left lasting scars on this country’s psyche, economy, and social conditions. I am not talking about just racial problems only. When one looks both closely and broadly at the terrible loss of life, suffering, and total destruction of this war, and the debacle of the Northern occupational armies (the most disastrous occupationary force in world history) under the hugely false term “Reconstruction”: Destruction would be a more accurate description for this tragic era in our history, which did not really end until the late 1950’s.
    I know that many will not understand or agree with this. I urge you to read books about this occurrence, look at the appalling photographs, and study the mind boggling statistics. Then it will start to sink in. I have spent a long time in forming this timely theory.

  40. Tillman says:

    I have spent a long time in forming this timely theory.

    Okay. How is this theory helpful for the present?

  41. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tillman:

    Then it will start to sink in. I have spent a long time in forming this timely theory.

    Mary Bennet?

  42. KariQ says:

    Never, ever compare seasonally adjusted job numbers with not seasonally adjusted numbers. The BLS numbers are adjusted for a reason, and are regarded as being the more accurate measure. Gallup’s survey is too new for a valid seasonal adjustment to be applied, so trying to guess BLS numbers from Gallup’s won’t work.

    I realize this is way late, but I felt like putting my 2 cents in any way.