Government revise unemployment criteria, etc. OR are the books being cooked?

The “change” in the way government statistics are kept is a troubling phenomenon — for me — that is currently occurring.

Actually, I stumbled over the “change” disclaimer while doing research for a future post.

I read:

On July 31, 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the results of the comprehensive, or benchmark, revision of the national income and product accounts (NIPAs).  The comprehensive revision incorporated the results of the 2002 benchmark input-output (I-O) accounts as well as changes in definitions, classifications, statistical methods, source data, and presentation.

As a huge fan of Mark Twain, I couldn’t help but reflect the quote in his own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

The government website went on to say that most of the tables in this release present revised statistics beginning with 1998.

With the revision, real GDP increased 0.4 percent for 2008; in the previously published estimates, real GDP had increased 1.1 percent.

One by one the BEA announced which sectors it would revise. There it was … Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) for 2006-2008 have been revised.

Would that mean the employment numbers I’m reading in the news today have changes in definitions, classifications, statistical methods, source data, and presentation?

Here are the “revised” employment numbers for the second quarter according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in July (-247,000).

The unemployment rate was little changed at 9.4 percent.

The U-6 unemployment rate is listed at 16.3 percent. U-6 includes total unemployed  who are discouraged and have stopped looking for work and other criteria.

The average monthly job loss for May through July (-331,000) was about half the average decline for November through April (-645,000).

There were 14.5 million unemployed persons in July.

The number of long-term unemployed continued to rise.  In July, 5.0 million people had been unemployed for more than 6 months, accounting for 1 in 3 unemployed persons.

Among the employed, there were 8.8 million persons working part time in July who would have preferred full-time work.

The unemployment numbers by month: (current unemployment rates may be seen here)

2006 4.7 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4  
2007 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.8 4.7 4.9  
2008 4.9 4.8 5.1 5.0 5.5 5.6 5.8 6.2 6.2 6.6 6.8 7.2  
2009 7.6 8.1 8.5 8.9 9.4 9.5 9.4            
 
Current Unemployment Rates for States and Historical Highs/Lows
Seasonally Adjusted
  June 2009p Historical High Historical Low
State Rate Date Rate Date Rate
Alabama 10.1 Dec. 1982 14.4 Feb. 2007 3.3
Alaska 8.4 July 1986 11.5 Sept. 1999 5.9
Arizona 8.7 Feb. 1983 11.5 June 2007 3.6
Arkansas 7.2 Mar. 1983 10.2 Sept. 2000 4.1
California 11.6 June 2009 11.6 Feb. 2001 4.7
Colorado 7.6 Nov. 1982 9.1 Jan. 2001 2.5
Connecticut 8.0 Jan. 1976 10.0 Nov. 2000 2.1
Delaware 8.4 June 2009 8.4 Oct. 1988 2.9
District of Columbia 10.9 Mar. 1983 11.4 Dec. 1988 4.8
Florida 10.6 June 2009 10.6 July 2006 3.3
Georgia 10.1 June 2009 10.1 Dec. 2000 3.4
Hawaii 7.4 Mar. 1976 10.2 Dec. 2006 2.2
Idaho 8.4 Feb. 1983 9.4 May 2007 2.8
Illinois 10.3 Feb. 1983 12.9 Mar. 1999 4.1
Indiana 10.7 Nov. 1982 12.8 Apr. 1999 2.6
Iowa 6.2 May 1983 8.5 Jan. 2000 2.6
Kansas 7.0 Sept. 1982 7.4 Oct. 1978 2.9
Kentucky 10.9 Dec. 1982 12.1 Mar. 2000 4.0
Louisiana 6.8 Sept. 1986 12.9 July 2006 3.2
Maine 8.5 Mar. 1977 9.0 Jan. 2001 3.0
Maryland 7.3 Aug. 1982 8.3 Mar. 2000 3.3
Massachusetts 8.6 Jan. 1976 10.9 Dec. 2000 2.7
Michigan 15.2 Nov. 1982 16.9 Mar. 2000 3.2
Minnesota 8.4 Nov. 1982 9.0 Apr. 1999 2.5
Mississippi 9.0 May 1983 13.7 Jan. 2001 4.9
Missouri 9.3 Apr. 1983 10.5 Jan. 2000 2.6
Montana 6.4 May 1983 8.7 Mar. 2007 3.2
Nebraska 5.0 Feb. 1983 6.8 Feb. 1998 2.2
Nevada 12.0 June 2009 12.0 Mar. 2006 4.2
New Hampshire 6.8 June 1992 7.7 Apr. 1987 1.9
New Jersey 9.2 Feb. 1977 10.6 June 2000 3.5
New Mexico 6.8 Apr. 1983 9.9 Oct. 2007 3.5
New York 8.7 July 1976 10.5 Apr. 1988 4.0
North Carolina 11.0 May 2009 11.1 Apr. 1999 3.1
North Dakota 4.2 Mar. 1983 6.9 Jan. 1998 2.5
Ohio 11.1 Jan. 1983 13.8 Mar. 2001 3.9
Oklahoma 6.3 Aug. 1986 9.4 Jan. 2001 2.7
Oregon 12.2 June 2009 12.2 Apr. 1995 4.7
Pennsylvania 8.3 Mar. 1983 12.9 Mar. 2000 4.0
Rhode Island 12.4 June 2009 12.4 July 1988 2.9
South Carolina 12.1 June 2009 12.1 Mar. 1998 3.1
South Dakota 5.1 Oct. 1982 5.9 Mar. 2000 2.4
Tennessee 10.8 Dec. 1982 12.4 Mar. 2000 3.8
Texas 7.5 Oct. 1986 9.3 July 2007 4.3
Utah 5.7 Mar. 1983 9.7 Mar. 2007 2.4
Vermont 7.1 June 1976 9.0 Mar. 2000 2.2
Virginia 7.2 Jan. 1983 7.8 Jan. 2001 2.2
Washington 9.3 Nov. 1982 12.2 Apr. 2007 4.4
West Virginia 9.2 Mar. 1983 18.2 Jan. 2008 4.1
Wisconsin 9.0 Jan. 1983 11.8 Apr. 1999 2.9
Wyoming 5.9 May 1983 10.1 Feb. 1979 1.9
Note: Data series begin in January 1976.

p = preliminary.

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One Response to Government revise unemployment criteria, etc. OR are the books being cooked?

  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read.. :)

    -Bill-Bartmann

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