Can’t Twist It: Employment Up – BLS Explained


The accusation that the “books are cooked” or that the numbers have fallen because people have dropped out of the labor force is absurd and unfounded. 

Employment numbers come from a BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) survey that samples 60,000 households, consisting of roughly 110,000 individuals monthly from around the country. While this isn’t sampling the entire population, the results confirm the figures with a 90% confidence interval, the standard in the field of statistics and scientific research. What this means is that there is a 90% chance that the TOTAL number of unemployed reported are within 290,000 (pretty good considering there are 12.1 million people unemployed).

So basically the survey is pretty sound. It appears that ~114,000 more jobs were created than those who entered the workforce, while that is within the confidence interval, we do know that total employment increased substantially. Here is what the report said:

The good:

“The number of unemployed persons, at 12.1 million, decreased by 456,000 in September”

This means that the actual number is likely between a decrease of 166,000-546,000 unemployed individuals.


“In September, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs decreased by 468,000 to 6.5 million.”

This means that the actual people who were laid off declined by between 178,000-558,000 thousand


211,000 people entered the labor force

Naysayers and Republicans cannot argue that the numbers are this way because people dropped out of the labor force, the fact is people actually entered the labor force


Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change.

Employment rose by between 1.163 million and 583,000 individuals

The Bad:

The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose from 8.0 million in August to 8.6 million in September.

Quite a few people, far too many, are employed part-time involuntarily (they want to be full-time) – unemployment figures count those employed full-time, so these people are still considered unemployed.


The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 4.8 million and accounted for 40.1 percent of the unemployed.

Many people are still unemployed, those who have been looking for jobs for quite some time.


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 114,000 in September. In 2012, employment growth has averaged 146,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011. In September, employment rose in health care and in transportation and warehousing.

September was a slow-down month, we have been on a much stronger recovery in the past year.



How the government measures employment

BLS release

2 thoughts on “Can’t Twist It: Employment Up – BLS Explained

  1. Pingback: Can't Twist It: Employment Up - BLS Explained | Economic Features |

  2. Reply Robin Jan 29,2013 %I:%M %p

    Amen to that!

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