Here’s a note we got last month – a Dec. 19 report from the State of Oregon’s WorkSource office that keeps track of state employment and joblessness. We didn’t pay much attention to it then — too busy with holidays. But it stayed in the back of our mind.
“For many years, monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas were developed by Oregon Employment Department economists. These economists were also responsible for revising the initial sample-based estimates annually, based on more complete information from Oregon businesses. This revisions process is known as benchmarking.
“In March 2011, responsibility for the monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas shifted to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The estimates developed by BLS are more heavily dependent on the sample of businesses and less reliant on knowledge of local economic events. They are also likely to demonstrate increased month-to-month variability.
“BLS staff is also taking over responsibility for the annual benchmarking process. The results of this process will be reflected when revised data for 2010 and 2011 are released in February and March 2012. “
But we recalled that note when we saw an LA Times article today, “Unemployment rate falls to 8.5%, lowest in nearly 3 years.” Isn’t that special? The article doesn’t say where this information comes from except “The Labor Department…”
Not until the 7th paragraph do we see some cautions:
There were some caveats in last month’s job-growth numbers, however. Although the data are seasonally adjusted, there [was unusually large holiday hiring. ] It’s unclear how many of those positions will last.
Have you read anywhere that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics now has a much bigger role in the process of measuring the jobless rate? No, didn’t think so.
Investment (and life) lesson: Beware of what you read and hear. Check and double check statistical claims. Check attribution. Where did the reporter get her news? Do you think he went and dug it up himself? Think again! Reporters work off of press releases.