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In its monthly jobs report released Friday, the BLS showed the US unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, as the economy gained 2.5 million jobs.
BLS, however, noted its data collectors — for the third month in a row — misclassified some workers as “employed not at work,” when they should have been classified as “unemployed on temporary layoff.”
Barring that issue, the unemployment rate could have been as high as 19.2% in April and 16.1% in May, not including seasonal adjustments, the BLS said.
“I fear that because this was a fairly serious misclassification that people are going to hatch a bunch of conspiracy theories around it. They shouldn’t do that,” Seth Harris, who served as acting Labor Secretary under President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.
“I don’t think the folks at BLS are trying to cook the books or make President Trump look good. They’re career professionals. They take their craft very seriously. They’re trying to do the best they possibly can in a very complicated situation,” he added.
He commended the BLS for being “transparent” about the error, saying it was the “right way to respond.”
Back in 2013 – in some of my very first Epsilon Theory notes – I wrote about how unemployment data was chronically misreported during Barack Obama’s first term, with an outrageous bias towards making the employment news flow in the United States look much better in narrative than it was in fact. You can read the original note – Heere Comes Lucky! – or the more in-depth note – The Icarus Moment – for all the gory details, but the skinny is this: for a period of some years in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, initial unemployment claims were systematically undercounted. Amazingly enough, this systematic misreporting in unemployment data stopped after Obama was re-elected for a second term.
Was this an intentional act of malfeasance and corruption by the Obama-era Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who at the time weren’t even responsible for collecting the weekly initial unemployment claims data?
Did the Obama-era BLS recognize the systematic error and direction of bias in the initial unemployment claims data?
Could the Obama-era BLS have fixed the systematic error and direction of bias in the initial unemployment claims data if they had wanted to?
In a heartbeat.
It’s exactly the same thing with the Trump-era Bureau of Labor Statistics and the reporting of weekly and monthly employment data. The measurement error we’ve seen in the monthly jobs report – and keep in mind that it is exactly the SAME ERROR being made for the past THREE MONTHS – is not an intentional mistake. But the failure to correct these errors – the conscious effort required to allow known and obvious errors to persist and create a market-moving and election-moving cartoon – well, I think that IS intentional.
“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”
Accidents happen. Misfortune occurs. Mistakes are made. But when the same accident happens over and over again, in exactly the same way and with exactly the same bias …
What’s happening with the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and of course it’s not only the Bureau of Labor Statistics – is an intentional carelessness.
It is an intentional, political carelessness that supports status quo cartoons of control, regardless of which political party happens to be championing the status quo today.
It’s not a Democrat thing and it’s not a Republican thing.
It’s a power thing.
Once you see it for what it is … a power thing, a system thing … you will never see it in the same old partisan ways again. That’s when they start to lose their narrative hold over you. That’s when the world starts to change.
Can you feel it?