Friday, March 16, 2012

Up in Down

So..  since both the PG and the Trib agree that the biggest news from the latest labor market update is that 10K folks dropped out of the labor market.. things must be bad right? 

What nobody mentioned on the size of the labor force is that some of the 2011 labor force numbers were revised, and revised upward.  Ready for this?  The December 2011 seasonally adjusted labor force number for the Pittsburgh region was moved to 1.24 million.  Up from the 1.231 million originally reported.  So an increase of 9K.  That December # may be largest labor force ever recorded for the region.    I have not actually checked (because the data is not all online yet) all the historical revisions as yet to see if maybe there was some other peak.   But the December 1.24 million number is in the press release just out.  It is possible October 2011 was higher if it that number is revised.  October 2011 is now showing as 1,236,700, which is lower than the December.. but that may change.   Whether or not October changes, we are basically bouncing around the peak labor force ever and well within a reasonable range of sample error for the labor force data. 

But since it is last month's news technically nobody is going to look back. Yet if you really think about it, the January data is preliminary as it always is when this monthly data comes out.  The harder data here is the December data we have now moved on from talking about.  Should be the other way around.  Yes, if you really take in what I am saying.  The decrease in the labor force everyone is focusing on pretty much the same as the revision upwards in the December labor force numbers the January numbers are now being compared to. Put another way, the 10K people everyone is focused on as 'leaving' the labor force are showing up because we now measure 9K more people than were thought to be in the labor force the previous month.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the local media's angle this morning really boggled my mind.

People poo-poo the national unemployment rate because so many people have dropped out of the labor force. But the OPPOSITE has happened here. Pittsburgh added ~17K to the labor force through the recession and the unemployment rate STILL went down. I don't get why this isn't the headline story.

Friday, March 16, 2012 8:10:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Yeah, an extremely important story is the increase in the size of the labor force since pre-recession--so, of course, the media ignores that story, but the first recent month where the labor force doesn't show any year over year increase suddenly becomes a big news story.

By the way, this also happened last April/May--in the midst of what was overall an up year for the labor force, it was down yoy in April and flat in May.

I honestly think part of the problem is that if you reported on all this honestly, most people here would think you had gone crazy. So the media constantly shys away from the big story, because it is too big to be believed.

Friday, March 16, 2012 3:43:00 PM  
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