Better than it looks?

Date posted: September 12, 2012

Recently the July jobs report for North Carolina was released. And the headlines didn’t look good. The statewide unemployment rate rose from 9.4 percent to 9.6 percent. But was there any good news in the report? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“I’m going to have to complicate things for our listeners, because this is an example where you really have to dig behind the headline to see what’s going on in the labor market.

“First point of complication is there are actually two — two — surveys of the labor market each year. One survey establishes the unemployment rate. A second survey tells us how many jobs are created and where.

“This month, or actually for July, the two surveys for North Carolina didn’t say the same thing. The one that establishes the unemployment rate did … show that the unemployment rate went from 9.4 to 9.6 percent. However, the other survey, which actually goes to businesses and counts jobs and finds out what kinds of jobs people have, showed that the number of jobs in the state went up in July. In fact they went up by just shy of 2,000, and indeed 16,000 private sector jobs were created. And, for example, we have 3,000 manufacturing jobs created.

“So, why do we have this distinction? Well, because these are two surveys. They’re based on different sample sizes. Which to believe? Well, economists tend to like the … second survey — the one that goes to employers — because it’s a bigger sample. And so … statistically, it’s better.

“So, I’d actually rely on that survey more. And so, in that sense, the July jobs report in North Carolina actually wasn’t bad. We had an increase in jobs, and I think very importantly we had a substantial and robust increase in private-sector jobs.”

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