May’s Employment Situation Summary report (also known as the “jobs report) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) caused quite a stir.
The BLS reported employment rose by 2.5 million and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3% from 15.7% in May.
The stir was caused because other economic data showed U.S. employment fell in May and the consensus among economists was that May’s unemployment rate would be significantly higher.
These stark differences led many to wonder if the numbers were intentionally tilted by the Trump administration to make the economy look better.
We’ve long worked with the BLS and can say with 99.999% confidence that the numbers weren’t tampered with. The highly professional career civil servants at the BLS wouldn’t allow this to happen. And if someone even tried, it would become public knowledge very quickly.
So we can safely dismiss statistical subterfuge. But that doesn’t mean the BLS data is perfect.
The Washington Post’s A ‘misclassification error’ made the May unemployment rate look better than it is. Here’s what happened. explains one issue with the May report. Key quote:
When the U.S. government’s official jobs report for May came out on Friday, it included a note at the bottom saying there had been a major “error” indicating that the unemployment rate likely should be higher than the widely reported 13.3 percent rate. … The special note said that if this “misclassification error” had not occurred, the “overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported …”