by Matt Lacy –
For the second time in less than a week the government is facing scrutiny and criticism over its job reporting after a new report omitted data from a large state.
On Thursday, the Labor Department touted the number of jobless claims as dropping by a sharp decline of 30,000 which put the total number of claims at 339,000 which is a four year low.
The article quoted Guy Berger, an economist with RBS Securities as saying the report “is consistent with a labor market that is gradually getting better.”
Other news outlets followed suit with similar coverage, CNN stated, “It’s considered an encouraging sign that the job market is improving,” while the Washington Times said the numbers were “a hopeful sign the job market could be picking up.”
However, buried in the stories was a note that a “large state” didn’t report quarterly figures to the Labor Department which accounted for a substantial portion of the decrease. The state was California which had a 10.4 percent unemployment rate in August.
While the state did publish its weekly report, it did not report its quarterly number which generally spikes at the start of a new quarter when many people have to reapply for benefits for technical reasons.
The Labor Department report comes on the heels of criticism over how it arrived at 7.8 percent for last month’s unemployment claims.
The figure was driven down by a sizeable increase in the number of part-time workers entering the workforce.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the numbers, noted in a Wall Street Journal column that under Bureau of Labor Statistics guidelines a person who works only one hour a week is considered employed for purposes of lowering the unemployment rate.
“If an out-of-work accountant tells a census worker, “I got one baby-sitting job this week just to cover my kid’s bus fare, but I haven’t been able to find anything else,” that could be recorded as being employed part-time,” Welch said.