Bureau of Labor Statistics
Mind versus technicals.
TrimTabs Explains Why Today's "Very, Very Suspicious" NFP Number Is Really Down 2.9 Million In Past 2 MonthsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2012 16:01 -0400
We have examined the nuance of the euphoric jobs data this morning from every angle and by now there should be plenty of 'information' for investors to make their own minds up on its credibility. However, the avuncular CEO of TrimTabs, who despite channeling Lewis Black lately, likely knows this data a little better than the average Jim on the street having collected tax witholdings data for the past 14 years, is modestly apoplectic at the adjustments. In one of his more colorful episodes, and rightfully so, Charles Biderman notes that "Either there is something massively changed in the income tax collection world, or there is something very, very suspicious about today’s BLS hugely positive number," adding, "Actual jobs, not seasonally adjusted, are down 2.9 million over the past two months. It is only after seasonal adjustments – made at the sole discretion of the Bureau of Labor Statistics economists – that 2.9 million fewer jobs gets translated into 446,000 new seasonally adjusted jobs." A 3.3 million "adjustment" solely at the discretion of the BLS? And this from the agency that just admitted it was underestimating the so very critical labor participation rate over the past year? Finally, Biderman wonders whether the BLS is being pressured during an election year to paint an overly optimistic picture by President Obama’s administration in light of these 'real unadjusted job change' facts. Frankly, in light of recent discoveries about the other "impartial" organization, the CBO, we don't think there is any need to wonder at all.
Panic at the mere thought of rising real wages.
That the fine economists at the San Fran Fed are known to spend good taxpayer money in order to solve such challenging white paper conundrums as whether water is wet, or whether a pound of air is heavier than a pound of lead (see here and here) has long been known. Furthermore, since the fine economists at said central planning establishment happen to, well, be economists, they without fail frame each problem in such a goal-seeked way that only allows for one explanation: typically the one that economics textbooks would prescribe as having been the explanation to begin with. Today, is in some ways a departure from the default assumptions. In a paper titled "Why is Unemployment Duration so Long", a question which simply requires a brief jog outside of one's ivory tower to obtain the answer, Rob Valleta and Katherin Kuang, manage to actually surprise us. And while we will suggest readers read the full paper attached below at their leisure, we cut straight to the conclusions, which has some troubling observations. Namely, they find that "the labor market has changed in ways that prevent the cyclical bounceback in the labor market that followed past recessions... In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that recent employer reluctance to hire reflects an unusual degree of uncertainty about future growth in product demand and labor costs."Oddly enough, this is actually a correct assessment: the mean reversion "model" no longer works as the entire system has now broken, and since the administration changes rules from one day to the next, companies are not only not investing in their future and spending capital for expansion, and hoarding cash, but have no interest in hiring: an observation that previously led to a surge in profit margins, yet one which as we pointed out over the weekend, has now peaked, and margins have begun rolling over, even as the rate of layoffs continues to be at abnormally high levels, meaning all the fat has now been cut out of the system. Yet it is the following conclusive statement that is most troubling: "These special factors are not readily addressed through conventional monetary or fiscal policies." And that is the proverbial "changeover" as the Fed has just acknowledged that both it, and Congress, are completely powerless at fixing the unemployment situation. In which case is it fair to finally demand that the Fed merely focus on just one mandate - that of controlling inflation, and leave the jobs question to the market, instead of making it worse with constant central planning tinkering which only makes it worse by the day?
A triptych of greece, cement and resolutions.
While this will hardly come as a surprise to any of our regular readers, occasional visitors may be confused to learn that according to a discovery by the Carolina Journal, North Carolina "Gov. Bev Perdue’s press office has received access to confidential employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics hours if not days before its scheduled release, quite likely in violation of federal law." Once again the rabbit hole, which these days is pretty much everywhere, emerges: "Documents and correspondence obtained by Carolina Journal show that the Division of Employment Security, formerly known as the Employment Security Commission, sent a draft of the press release each month to Perdue’s press office. The governor’s spokesmen typically rewrote the text and added a positive spin, even if the data did not support Perdue’s talking points." And while one may say this is a perfectly innocuous leak of otherwise embargoed data, others may highlight the following facts: "While the operation may sound like a harmless effort to add political spin to the release of jobs data, sharing confidential BLS estimates while they are protected by an embargo violates a federal law barring the early release of employment data. This is no small matter: A conviction for breaching the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 carries a fine of up to $250,000, up to five years in prison, or both." Of course, when it comes to breaking the law, both members of the US banking class, as well as America's politicians, are perfectly immune from any repercussions. But at least the next time the market does its usual pre-NFP acrobats, the only question will be: which particular US politicians i) traded in advance of the embargo lift, and ii) leaked the information to ten of their closest friends, who did the same, who did the same, etc.
Today's announcement by the BLS that it decided to flat out estimate nearly a third of all initial jobless claims (courtesy of several large outliers) due to a "clerical holiday" which resulted in a major beat to estimates, caught many offguard by just how tendentious and manipulative the US Department of Truth can be. This is nothing. To visualize just how ridiculous the perpetual upward bias is at the Labor Bureau, we present a chart demonstrating the weekly jobless claim revisions by the BLS: in a nutshell, 90%+ of the time the bureau has revised prior claims upward, meaning it consistently strives to create an optimistic picture at the moment, only to have it revised it to its true, uglier state a week later when nobody cares. The implication is that fraudulent (and we sure hope this is inadvertent, although a 90% error rate definitely would invite a criminal investigation into just who and how stands to benefit from such an manipulative upward bias) data reporting is responsible for a persistent upward bias in data, and that fundamentals have been disconnected from the "government's reality" for years, confirming that the recent pathological breakdown in the market's relationship with fundamentals is not a new development. For example: today stocks would be flat to down if the BLS were to report the initial claims as they really are. Instead, here we are, almost 1% higher on nothing but soon to be revised lies. In other news, the China-US data distribution Joint Venture/Vassal State development is progressing better than expected.