Could the May jobs report, which reflected a measly gain of 38K new jobs, actually be even worse?

Could the May jobs report, which reflected a measly gain of 38K new jobs, actually be even worse?

Try as the media might to suppress the bad news last week, the Labor Department’s jobs report for May, which showed 38,000 new jobs, was the worse since 2010. Add to those dismal figures a record high in the number of Americans who have stopped looking for work altogether — now 94.7 million — and the nation’s slowest economic recovery ever appears on the verge of screeching to a halt.

It doesn’t seem possible that the economic outlook in America could get any worse. But according to one economist, it has. Johns Hopkins economic professor Jonathan Wright who wrote an analysis Friday for the left-leaning Brookings Institution, asserts that the nation actually lost jobs in May. From NBC News:

Nonfarm payrolls actually declined 4,000 during the month.


Wright said he arrived at his number by diverging from the government in the way seasonal adjustments are made to the numbers. Whereas the Bureau of Labor Statistics “puts very heavy weight on the current and last two years of data,” the Wright method involves going back over six years to measure seasonal patterns, “which makes them more stable over time than in the current BLS seasonal adjustment method,” he wrote.

If accurate, Wright’s analysis comes as a blow to government economists, who had been expecting May to show a growth of 162,000 jobs, which by their own reckoning was ridiculously optimistic.

Wright further tempers the rosy picture disseminated by the White House, which boasted Friday that the unemployment rate, which fell to 4.7%, was its lowest since November 2007. But that, as Wright underscores, was largely due to a mass exodus of Americans from the workforce. A more realistic unemployment rate is 9.7%.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.

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