More job confusion

Date posted: March 24, 2011

U.S. job data appear to be diverging: One recent job survey showed only a trickle of new jobs, while another survey showed thousands of additional jobs created. What’s the person on the street to think? Is the job market good or bad? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well this is an old story. … It is also a confusing story. We have two job surveys every month. They don’t always give us the same answer, and this was a good example.

“The largest of the surveys — where the surveyors actually go to businesses, places of work — shows that we gained only 36,000 net new jobs in January. The other survey — where the survey goes to where people live and asks them questions about whether they work or not — showed that we gained a 120,000 net new jobs. So at least they went in the same direction, but obviously the amounts were very different.

“One factor may have been the weather. The weather — bad weather in January, especially in the North and Midwest — kept a lot of people away from their place of work. They just couldn’t get to work. So when the surveyors went to places of work. they found a lot of people weren’t there. So that may have held that number down, whereas when they went to folks’ homes and were able to get to them and ask them about whether they worked, they could get more information.

“So I think the bottom line here … is that we are creating jobs we know that. But how fast we are creating, we don’t really know and we didn’t really get a good indication of that in January. So we are going to have to wait for better weather and hopefully better numbers.”

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