March 15, 2012

Wires Trumpet Unemployment Claims As Tying ’4-Year Low’; Historical Chances of Being Wrong After Revision Are 98%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:03 pm

The exercise of watching the press report on the current week’s unemployment claims figure as if it’s etched in stone and assessing it as if it’s the last word — only to see the figure get upwardly revised the next week virtually without media comment — is getting extraordinarily tedious and predictable (but of course watching what they do remains necessary).

At the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Reuters, this week’s version of the shell game has a relatively unique twist. The three wire services respectively and all without qualification say that today’s seasonally adjusted figure of 351,000 from the Department of Labor “matches a four-year low,” “the lowest level in four years,” and “back to a four-year low.” As seen in the graphic which follows, based on the history of the past year, there’s a 98% chance they will be wrong after subsequent revisions, almost all of which have occurred during the very next reported week:

Unemployment ClaimsRevs53wksEnded031012

In the past 53 reported weeks, the first reported figure for initial claims has been upwardly revised 52 times (i.e., 98.1% of the time; the only exception is highlighted), and by an average of about 3,800 claims. An average of over 3,600 of those write-ups has occurred the very next week.

But Christopher Rugaber at the AP, Alex Kowalski at Bloomberg, and a pair of reporters at Reuters (Lucia Mutikani and Leah Schnurr) all took advantage of their chance to cheerlead while they had it without telling readers what, based on the previous year’s history, is likely to happen next week.

Of the three, only Bloomberg mentioned that last week’s claims number was revised upward from 362,000 to 365,000.

Just another day in misleading, smiley-faced business reporting.

Cross-posted at

Initial Unemployment Claims: 351K SA, a 14K Drop; Half of Drop Explained by Seasonal Factor Diffs and Almost Inevitable Upward Revision

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:02 am

From the Department of Labor:


In the week ending March 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 365,000. The 4-week moving average was 355,750, unchanged from the previous week’s revised average of 355,750.


The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 337,713 in the week ending March 10, a decrease of 30,719 from the previous week. There were 371,721 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

Last week’s 362K was revised up to 365K. The average upward adjustment during the past year has been about 3.8K.

Seasonal factor changes explain a bit of the downward move. If this year’s NSA claims of 337,713 had been divided by last year’s seasonal factor of 0.954 instead of this year’s 0.963, seasonally adjusted claims would have been 3,000 higher. Add to that the typical upward revision of about 4,000, and the substantive drop in this week’s claims compared to last week is only half of the officially reported drop.


UPDATE: Business Insider’s email had a consensus prediction of 357K. Well, after adjusting for seasonal factor differences and next week’s virtually inevitable upward revisions, that’s basically what we got.

Latest PJ Media Column (‘The Obama Economy: Blacks, Hispanics Hardest Hit’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Rose @ 8:02 am

It’s here.

I will go up here at BizzyBlog on Saturday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

The subhead: “It’s not about recovery. It’s about transformation.”

Go to the column to see what I did to this graph published by Uncle Sam’s Department of Labor:



Extending one point: The column notes that from all appearances the “mancession” phenomenon is over. The unemployment rate for both over-20 men and women was 7.7% in February. There is one exception, which is the 14.3% vs. 12.4% difference between the unemployment rates for African-American men and women.

Though comparison is difficult because their workforce participation rates always differ, and reasons unrelated to the employment market can sometimes influence those rates, it appears that the workforce dropout trend and other indicators of malaise are pretty much affecting men and women equally.

One thing which I haven’t explored is whether the “mancession” ended largely as a result of men taking jobs paying much less than they earned in their “former life” (a common workplace term at places where they have landed) more often than women.

If anyone has relevant evidence in this area, I’d welcome seeing it.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (031512)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:20 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.


Positivity: Paralyzed priest’s ‘miraculous’ cure could lead to canonization

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From New Orleans:

Jan 6, 2012 / 06:18 am

A priest who was severely paralyzed from a neck injury believes he was healed through the intercession of 19th century priest Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos. If declared a miracle by the Vatican, the healing could lead to the blessed’s canonization.

Fr. Byron Miller, executive director of the National Seelos Shrine in New Orleans, said “some of the best doctors in the country” told Fr. John Murray there was little chance he would walk again.

“So my reaction to his recovery was astonishment at the wonders of our awesome God through His company of saints, including the powerful prayers of Bl. Seelos in heaven!”

In 2009 Fr. Murray, a Baltimore-based Redemptorist parish priest known for his preaching, was paralyzed from the chest down after he tripped on a walkway and struck his head against a railing, breaking his neck. Doctors said he would never walk again.

“When they said I’d never be able to move, they took away all hope,” he told the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s newspaper the Catholic Review.

He began living and undergoing rehabilitation at a home for retired priests in Timonium, Md. On Nov. 28, 2010, he was able to move his left leg slightly off the ground.

“I was ecstatic,” the priest said. “Here I was about six weeks after they told me I’d never move again and, lo and behold, I could move. Just the foot, but it kept going and going and going.”

Today the priest is completely mobile with the help of a walker.

Yahoo Sportswriter Accuses MVSU Guard of ‘Taunting’ President Obama — By Looking at Him

YahooHeadlineOnNCAABBtaunt0312The definitions of “taunt” including the following: as a verb, “to reproach in a sarcastic, insulting, or jeering manner; mock” and “to provoke by taunts; twit”; as a noun, “an insulting gibe or sarcasm; scornful reproach or challenge.”

Note that the definition does not include: “to make eye contact.” Unfortunately, Yahoo sportswriter Graham Watson’s dictionary apparently does. Even though all Mississippi Valley State guard Kevin Burwell did after making a three-point shot was look over at President Obama and (according to the broadcasters, not Watson) make eye contact for what could hardly have been more than a half-second, Watson turned it into a “taunt,” and even seemed to pin the blame for MVSU’s loss on Burwell: