In a revelation that should make the Joe Weisenthals of the world listless and desultory, NPR's Adam Davidson wants you to know something about the monthly media bonanza over the federal government jobs report: It's a sham. The monthly ritual, which we're certainly not immune to, is a caffeine-fueled race to analyze the latest jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and convey how the economy is skyrocketing toward economic recovery or plunging to fiscal ruin. But writing in next Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Davidson says the monthly report is not only useless for short-term analysis but, in fact, harmful to economic growth. For two main reasons:
- First: The data is often revised and inaccurate, so clinging to a single number to explain the economy is foolish. "It’s best used as a long-term guide, not as a month-by-month panic- or joy-inducing catalyst," according to officials at the BLS who Davidson spoke with. "The jobs number is revised a few months after it’s released."
- Second: Hanging on to the jobs report can actually do damage to the economy. "Economic growth is, in part, driven by people and businesses feeling optimistic about the future," writes Davidson. "And after hearing how lousy the job sector looked over the last month, some consumers decide not to buy things, like a new house or even an extra appetizer. After hearing that so many of their customers are out of work, some companies decide there isn’t enough growth on the horizon to warrant hiring. Just like that, a bad initial jobs report (obsessed over by a frantic news media) might make a bad situation worse."
It's sort of cold comfort for those who've dedicated their professional life to the first Friday of the month morning business beat, but, hey, there's always a slideshow of world leaders' body language to do.