Friday, June 04, 2010

U.S. Employment Surveys Diverge

Some people think that employment statistics reflects direct government knowledge of all labor related transactions, and of the absence of labor related transactions, in a similar way that the government directly know how much revenue and expenditure it has had. But at least not yet, "Big Brother" isn't that big.

So, employment statistics is instead based on surveys (polls). In the case of employment statistics this means in most countries surveys based on household respondents.

Unlike in most other countries, the United States government tries to compile two different employment surveys. One is based on the standard international method of household surveys, and the other is based on a survey of employers (the payroll survey).

Usually the message from the household survey is pretty much the same, though the exact details almost always differ somewhat. The latest employment report however had two different messages. The household survey indicated a very weak economy, as despite massive Census-related hirings, total employment actually fell.

By contrast, the payroll survey had a bullish undertone. While private (non-Census) payrolls increased only marginally, total payrolls increased significantly and both the average work week and average hourly earnings increased, suggesting a relatively solid recovery.

Since the survey results differ, and since there is only one reality, it follows that at least (maybe both) one of them is wrong. I don't know which one of them is more accurate, but based on other reports it seems likely that the truth lies somewhere in between, which would imply a continuing U.S. recovery, but only at a moderate pace.