The timing of economic statistics

Date posted: April 17, 2013

It’s been said that during the entire decade of the 2000s, North Carolina did not create a single job. Is this accurate? Or is it a creative use of statistics? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well … it’s actually an accurate statistic. If you look at the years between 2000 and 2010, … North Carolina did not create jobs. But I think it’s a rather deceptive statistic, because it doesn’t account for the fluctuations in the underlying economy. The unique thing about the decade of the 2000s was it was bracketed by two recessions, one recession at the beginning of the decade, the other recession at the end of the decade. Actually, North Carolina had substantial growth in between.

“So, for example, if you look at the years 2000 to 2003, that was the first recession. And then you look at the years 2007 to 2009 and that was the second recession, sure we lost jobs and we lost a lot of jobs, particularly in that second recession.

“But if you look at the years in between in North Carolina, from 2003 to 2007, those were growth years.  The national economy was growing. We were growing. We actually added a lot of jobs. In fact, the state added 400,000 jobs during those years at a rate that was twice as fast as the nation.

“So, I think this is, again, where you have to be very careful with statistics. You have to know what you’re looking at. You have to know what you’re doing, and in this case, I would argue, the underlying business cycle will have a lot to say about what kind of numbers you’re looking at.”

 

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