February 6, 2016
by Paul Craig Roberts

US economics statistics are so screwed up that they do not provide an accurate picture.

Consider the latest monthly payroll jobs report. According to the report, in January 151,000 new jobs were created. Where are these jobs? According to the report, 69% of the new jobs are accounted for by retail employment and waitresses and bartenders. If we add in health care and social assistance, the entirely of the new jobs are accounted for. This is not the employment picture of a First World economy.

According to the report, in January the retail sector added 57,700 jobs. Considering that January is the month that followed a disappointing Christmas December, do you think retailers added 57,700 employees? Such a large increase in retail employment suggests an expected rise in sales, but transportation and warehousing lost 20,300 jobs and wholesale trade added only 8,800.

Perhaps it is mistaken to think that employment in these sectors should move together. Possibly the retail jobs, if they are real, are part-time jobs replacing a smaller number of terminated full-time jobs in order that employers can avoid benefits costs. If this is the case, then the retail jobs are bad news, not good news.

The reported unemployment rate of 4.9% is misleading as it does not count discouraged workers. When discouraged workers are added, the actual rate of US unemployment is about 23%, a number more consistent with the decline in the labor force participation rate. In January 2006 the labor force participation rate was 66%. In January 2016 the labor force participation rate is 62.7%.

The government has a second official unemployment rate that counts short-term discouraged workers (discouraged for less than one year). That rate, known as U-6, is 10%, twice the “headline rate” which is always the U-3 measure that excludes all discouraged workers not currently looking for a job.

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