Friday, March 7, 2008

End to a bad economic week

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its February 2008 job numbers this morning; the news wasn't good.

From the survey of business establishments, seasonally-adjusted non-farm payrolls dropped by 63,000, the second monthly decline. From the survey of households, seasonally-adjusted employment dropped by 255,000.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell (you read that right) from 4.9 to 4.8 percent. The fall is largely an artifact of the way that unemployment is calculated--as the ratio of unemployed people to people "in the labor force." The survey data indicated the number of people in the labor force shrunk by nearly half a million people. The rate is also an artifact of seasonal adjustment; the unadjusted unemployment rate is 5.2 percent.

However you cut them, these are pretty dreary numbers, especially coming on top of weak numbers from December and January. And regardless of whether the economy has plateaued or dipped downward, workers appear in for a bumpy ride.