The Numbers Game

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When the government releases numbers, there is a mad scramble by economists to analyze what just happened. And what you see in the headlines is not only what is important.

For example, on Friday the government reported that the unemployment rate dropped slightly. Even though it was a slight drop, any movement lower is good news.

But wait, analysts were predicting an increase of almost 100,000 jobs last month and the increase was only 80,000. So that is bad news. We need at least 150,000 jobs added each month just to keep up with population growth. On the other hand, the previous two month’s job numbers were revised up by over 100,000 jobs. So that more than made up for the deficit. This is good news. Is anyone besides us confused yet?

The bottom line is, the report was not extraordinary in any way. That means that the economic recovery is continuing. It also means that the recovery is tepid at best. Despite the overall negative feeling, one has to remember that almost half of economists were predicting that we were slipping into a double-dip recession just a few months ago.

Now we realize that the double dip is less of a risk and we are moving forward. The economy’s growth rate of 2.5% and an average of around 125,000 jobs added each month are indicative of an economy getting stronger but nowhere strong enough to make up for jobs we have lost. We need at least 100,000 more jobs added every month to wake up the housing sector.

So it is not what happened last month that is important. It is where we go from here. If Europe could actually finish their debt plan and move that focus from the front pages for a few months, that would help. Also Congress coming up with a debt plan will help.

Remember the budget? Well, the time is getting short for a solution to this issue as the deadline for an agreement is again coming up later this month. Wouldn’t it be nice if the headlines were not marred with our representatives bickering during the month of November?