An October surprise

Today, the Labor Department reported that the jobless rate in the U.S. dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent last month. This is the lowest rate in approximately three and a half years.

But there’s a problem with the report: it doesn’t make sense. As Kevin Hassett points out, the 114,000 net jobs created in September is well below the average for this year (146,000) and the average for last year (153,000).

So how did the Department of Labor come up with an unemployment rate that indicates significant improvement in the jobs picture? It found the alleged improvement through its survey of households. As Hassett explains, the Labor Department’s jobs report is always based on two surveys, one of households and one of establishments.

Professional economists and the press usually emphasize the establishment survey because it is considered less volatile. This month, that survey continues to show the usual weakness in the job market. But the household survey purports to show massive improvement.

Hassett says that during the Bush presidency, the MSM discounted the household survey whenever it revealed good news, claiming that the numbers are suspect. I find the latest household survey numbers — coming just before the climax of this election and contradicting more reliable data — to be suspect, indeed.

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