Suddenly, a Sharp Deterioration in the Job Market

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

A hullabaloo broke out on February 3 after the BLS released its jobs report that indicated that a surprisingly robust 243,000 jobs were created in January, and that the unemployment rate had dropped to an even more surprising 8.3%. Cynics, academics, BLS heretics, BLS true believers, hype mongers, and politicians of all stripes waged a veritable media battle over these numbers that President Obama serenely trotted out as validation of his policies. Even Rush Limbaugh jumped into the fray. Rarely, if ever, had BLS numbers caused so much public disagreement—and scorn. But that’s history. Now we're in February, and unemployment, after a year of fairly consistent improvement, is suddenly showing a sharp deterioration.

On Friday, Gallup’s mid-month unemployment reading, which covers the preceding 30 days, jumped from 8.3% in mid-January, the low point since the financial crisis, to 9.0%. An astounding increase. And its Job Creation Index confirmed that trend, dropping from +16 in January to +13 in February.

Worse, 10% of the employees in mid-February were part timers in search of full-time jobs, though down a tad from January's of 10.1%, the all-time worst level in Gallup's history! Underemployment—a combination of the unemployed and part-timers who are looking for a full-time job—jumped to 19% from the mid-January reading of 18.1%. While Gallup’s unemployment reading has improved steadily over the course of 2011, the underemployment reading has simply gotten worse.

Gallup's mid-month reading has been a good predictor of the non-farm payrolls report that the BLS releases two weeks later on the first Friday of the following month. For example, Gallup’s mid-January reading improved to 8.3%, in line with what the BLS would report two weeks later (causing the above hullabaloo). Unlike the BLS, Gallup, does not seasonally adjust its unemployment reading, so some uptick during this time of the year is normal. But that kind of jump is far beyond normal.

Of course, the BLS might tweak its formula to further decrease its utterly confounding workforce participation rate to the point where the resulting unemployment rate will actually, and once again, surprise on the upside, despite the hue and cry that may cause.

And there was another indicator: the Philly Fed employment index collapsed from 11.6 in January to 1.1 in February—a warning shot for Jack Ablin of Harris Private Bank whose concerns on this were published by Politico's Morning Money on Friday. The index reflects hiring plans by employers, and they have pulled in their horns. They're now adequately staffed, though they might add a few people here and there, while they’re waiting for demand to show signs of life. That wait may tax their patience, however: gasoline prices are at an all-time high for this time of the year, and other debacles are tearing into the toughest creature out there that no one has been able to subdue yet. But even that tough creature may have reached its limit. Read.... The Inexplicable American Consumer Takes an Unexpected Breath.

Over the years, the Philly Fed employment index has shown a strong correlation with the BLS jobs report, and Ablin estimated that based on it, only 50,000 new jobs were created, a far cry from the 243,000 in January—fictual or not. This and the nasty mid-month unemployment number from Gallup revive an odd idea: has the ECRI’s much ridiculed recession call been right all along?

Unless the BLS can figure out how to statistically adjust its next set of data and estimates to relegate any negative elements to blissful oblivion, there will be disappointment. And it will slam into lofty expectations—which may cause the stock market to, well, spike because, in these crazy times of ours, QE3 with all its wondrous, illusory, and ineffectual magic will suddenly reappear on the table. Read.... Bernanke’s Rain Dance at the Bottom of the Stairs.

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praxiteles's picture

a drug test kit costs about a dollar.

krispkritter's picture


Read today:

Here's how federal fudging works.

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White

House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third

is from Montana .All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Montana contractor takes out a tape measure and does some

measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I

figure the job will run about $900. That's $400 for materials, $400

for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then

says, "I can do this job for $700. That's $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to

the White House official and whispers, "$2,700." The official,

incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?"

The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you,

and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the government official.

And that, my friends, is how government stimulus plans and federal grants work.


BlackholeDivestment's picture

In the inverted reality ( AKA Hell) of the Suicide Vampire Squid of the Great Wal Mart of China, unemployment is the market spike known as ''The Nail in the Coffin''. 

lunaticfringe's picture

Can we quit talking about the economic collapse and instead just have the mf'er?

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

With corporate profit margins down, and all big holidays behind us, what would you expect?

Westcoastliberal's picture

Since we're on the subject of the BLS deceit, er ah, report, riddle me this Batman:

A few days ago Charles Hugh Smith in this oftwominds blog posted that 140 million were employed in 2009 and the BLS said unemployment was at 10%.  Since then, 6 million more Americans are working age than in 2009, but we still have 140 million employed and the BLS says unemployment is 8.3%.

Isn't this blatant fraud on the American people, any way you slice the numbers?


Hey, you didn't factor in all the people who are dead - or wish they were dead, who don't qualify to be statistics in Amerika. Soylent Green status would at least make them useful to the PTB.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Charles Hugh Smith is astonishingly ill informed about a great many things.

Item: Art Cashin's article of several days ago was probably the most important of the last 6 months.  CHS points out increase in the  population of working age people, but that's NOT Labor Participation.  It is working age AND actively looking that is in the equation.  Not just working age.

Art Cashin pointed out a recent explosion in people drawing disability.  Their unemployment expired and they are desperate, so they apply for disability, are turned down at an 80% rate, and then appeal with a lawyer -- and appeals are successful 80% of the time.

They move from actively seeking work to receiving disability benefits.  They aren't paying taxes on salary, and they take money from the gov't.  Double fiscal whammy.  

The disabled REDUCE unemployment because they reduce the working- age-and-looking-for-work parameter.



lunaticfringe's picture

Overstating the obvious. Next thing ya'll be telling us government manufactured numbers are bullshit. I'm a tired of a reading about this BS. Can we haz collapsia yet?

Mareka's picture

No collapz for you until you finish your lima beenz.

AC_Doctor's picture

The only really true economic indicator is the Food Stamp Participation and it is not going downwards.

the grateful unemployed's picture

the second indicator is natural gas, which stinks, well not until they put some eau d potus in the formula

boiltherich's picture

It might be a good indicator of poverty/low income among the population of those eligible for SNAP, but if you are a single male with no dependents it is very difficult to get assistance of any kind.  Exceptions are low income permanently disabled, but otherwise forget about it.  SNAP eligibility is not based on income alone. 

Here is the USDA page listing eligibility criteria, have a quick scroll through and you see that a major part of the unemployed and homeless do not qualify no matter income.

Just out of curiosity I went to the Oregon Trail SNAP benefit calculator and entered my data less my veteran's disability which is not considered income for most purposes (it is for SNAP though) just using the $965 per month SS disability with rent at $825 and utilities seperate it said I was eligible for $198 per month in food stamps.  So, a single guy with zero income left after rent and utilities gets about half of what I spend in the grocery each month.  No wonder we have such high crime rates and welfare cheating.  And it is nice to see that the government thinks $908 per month is poverty level, I suppose they expect you to pay 100% of your income for shelter and utilities and eat in the nearest soup kitchen. 

Sorry, forgot to paste in that FDA addy:


dizzyfingers's picture

There's only so much cash coming in Bub. They count the numbers and then divide  that into cash on hand or expected.

Sabibaby's picture

Take more money from the people who are working then.

See, I fixed the problem!!!

boiltherich's picture

I know you think you are being clever but you are very close to the truth.  Though I think it would be better if they instead made it easier for businesses to create decent jobs.  MOST people on assistance would far rather have a decent living wage job than collect assistance no matter what the far right would have you believe.  National healthcare would be one way of doing that because after wages itself business spends more on private for obscene profit health insurance exceeding even cost of goods sold in many industries.  And the entire financial sector is nothing but a bloodsucking leech on then national income, it should be full-stop ended tomorrow.  End corporate and employer taxes, even a liberal like me can see that those do not get paid by businesses but are instead passed on to customers and employees to pay.  And there would be far more resources for PEOPLE if we ended the political scam of earmarks, pork, outdated programs, and most especially corporate welfare.  We could also stop trying to be the world's policeman relying instead upon the certain retaliation of a closely allied group of nations that would not tolerate any aggressions against the members and who shared the costs of both men and material fairly.  And lastly we must not be paying the rich interest on debt for money we borrowed from them rather than having them pay taxes in the first place.  When Raygun lowered the tax burden of the wealthy all he really did was say to them we will lower your taxes if you will promise to lend that money to us instead and in return we will pay you more than we bill you.  The rich might pay as a gross amount more than the poorer two thirds, but they also get 100% of the interest on the debt as well as owning the principal of more than 15 trillion.  Fuck that, void the debt and charge a flat 20% income tax for everything over 25,000 per year NO exemptions of any kind, up to a million, then 30% on everything over a mil.  NO exemptions of any kind. 

GernB's picture

I would love a 20% flat tax it would reduce my taxes about 15%. What people like Warren Buffet fail to mention is that any successful S-Corp (larger than a mom-and pop organization) pays 35% taxes because corporate income falls to owners who are taxed at the income tax rates. If my taxes go up by 5%, that comes out of money used to fuel growth, and as such translates to 10-15% less growth which typically means 10-15% less to pay employees. You can do the math to figure out what that does to employment.

JOHNICON's picture

That chart should really be displayed as a percentage of the population.  There are millions more people in the US now than there were when Clinton or Bush I were in office.  Of course, it's Fox News, so I shouldn't be surprised.


-Edited a few spelling errors

EC2.0's picture

Yeah but our population hasn't jumped 60% but it looks like food stamp usage has....

onlooker's picture

"""As some of you already know, the States have been ordered by the Federal Government to not release their data to the public about unemployment but that Federal Government through BLS will be in charge of the release of unemployment claims and the persons employed. """"

This was posted above. Anyone know anything about it?

ifishivote's picture

It doesn't matter. Americans are becoming dumber as each day goes by. The Jersey Shore is the #1 rated cable TV show. Need I say more?


Massive layoffs must hit the roles soon. All of those people that laid off from Wall street haven't been counted because of the Warn Act. In NY if you get laid off you are still paid for 3 months after you are laid of,f then you can collect Unemployment Insurance. So all of those that got laid off from late November til now still haven't been able to file for benefits.

blunderdog's picture

In NY if you get laid off you are still paid for 3 months after you are laid of,f


Yeah, ok, but we have to pay 5% of our salaries to the giant rats that run the underground empire in the sewers, or else they send minions to chew off our earlobes while we sleep.

(Where you from, boy?)

woggie's picture
i gots 'dem steadily depressin', low-down mind messin' living in the corrupt Obama world blues.
keeping appearances's picture

I live in a Western United States.  On Friday I spoke with a person who is very associated with unemployment claims in my locale.  As some of you already know,  the States have been ordered by the Federal Government to not release their data to the public about unemployment but that Federal Government through BLS will be in charge of the release of unemployment claims and the persons employed.  The person whom I spoke with said that it is to the point, which again, many readers of Zero Hedge, already know (an probably say, Duh!) that they have to take the data and use a multiply of at least a factor of two in enable to get the data to at least resemble the truth about unemployment claims.  We talked about John Williams' Shadow Statistics and when I spoke of a 23% unemployment rate they said that is possible.  

SmoothCoolSmoke's picture

People do not care that the Govt lies.  Why?  Because today, everybody lies any time they need to to suit their needs.  It is the true empidemic of our times.

crash_davis's picture

90% of the people spend their time in the us/them repub/demoncat argument. They spend all their time arguing talking points perpetuated by talk radio on one side and the MSM on the other. Obama probably will win but if he doesn't it won't really matter. The repub that might follow him would be bought and paid for by the same people who want to fight all the wars and who ran the eonomy into the ground with their debt based economy. It's all a sham designed to keep most of us fat off horrible food and so busy trying to keep above water that we don't have time to care about any of this.

the other 10% can see it. They try really hard to understand it. They read ZH and other sights. They try to tell people how its all a sham. It's all a show. The people you try to talk to about this stuff look at you like you are crazy. Most people can't or don't want to wake up to all of this. It's incredibly sad. They won't understand until the dollar is dead and they are looking down the barrel of the gun. They will say "what about freedom? what about hope and change?"

goldenbuddha454's picture

Let's use the Obama logic for a moment.  They say that the problems we have today are because of the previous administrations policies.  Ok then, following that logic, Bush 43 was responsible for getting Bin Laden, Bill Clinton was responsible for 9-11, Bush 41 was responsible for the Kobar towers, USS Kohl and the first twin towers bombing, Reagan was responsible for Manuel Noriega running drugs through Panama, Jimmy Carter was responsible for the the awesome economy of the Reagan years and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Do you see how ridiculous all this blame game is? 

sun tzu's picture

Politicians do this because most people have the attention span of a fruitfly

xela2200's picture

Sorry, you were saying something.

Jena's picture

Insulting to fruitflies.

Everyman's picture

Now we're in February, and unemployment, after a year of fairly consistent improvement, is suddenly showing a sharp deterioration.

NO it is not "suddenly" showing deterioration, it has sucked for over 3 years.  All the BLS 'adjustments" and just the way the data is collected and tabulated "makes it all seem better".  Same story for CPI and GDP.  It is "massaged" for political purposes, and this data is almost alwyas "revised" down to bad.


Gallup and Shadow Stats have both been markedly higher, and the raly problem is the "underemployed" anbd they are not very happy.  The 99 to 63 week "extensin" of UE is going to start wiping out vast swaths of our people and the economy.  Hell just look at gasoline usage, and SHIPPING, all are showing we are NOT growing, NOT producing, and most definitely going BACKWARDS!!!


Benjamin Glutton's picture

The newest BLS adjustment was pointed out by BK in his most recent post....

From HR 3630 

*There is a new provision for eligibility for unemployment benefits. In the future, some states will require you to pee in a cup:

(A) Testing an applicant for unemployment compensation for the unlawful use of controlled sub- stances as a condition for receiving such compensation.


(B) Denying such compensation to such applicant on the basis of the result of such testing.


(C) The term ‘controlled substance’ has the meaning given such term in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802).

In case you were wondering, marijuana is a controlled substance under U.S.C 802. Something like this might reduce those seeking UE benefits by 30-40%......


Perhaps this "test" should be on the front end. Why should an employer be forced to pay FUTA on behalf of an employee who may later be deemed ineligible?

Washington is out of control with moral hazard mania.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the BLS category... "Piss Test Adjustment". Workers otherwise known as people unworthy to be included in the count of unemployed seeking work.



xela2200's picture

I live in Florida where the Governor wants aid recipients to pee on a cup. I am still wrapping my head around that one. On one side, the tax payer should not be paying the drug habits of people that are asking for food. However, on the other hand there is a privacy issue. Some employers have the same requirement. I guess you can always refuse the job.

Another potential issue is that once government goes that route what else can come down the pipe. Maybe, anti-contraceptives, no sugary drinks, no junk food, etc. Food stamps can't be used to buy alcohol or tobacco.

JimS's picture

Most employers are allready testing for "drugs". Testing is BS, and costs about $120 a test. The only things the "tests" really catch is someone who is using marijuana, as it is the only "substance" that stays in your piss for longer than 24+ hours. Nearly all other drugs are metabolized from your piss within 24/48 hours. Check it out. The point I am trying to make is this: people who smoke pot can do most jobs quite well, and they're usually not smoking it all day long (it's too expensive). Crackheads, herion addicts and alcoholics, on the otherhand, need their "fix" on a steady basis for the most part. Most of those people would pass a drug "test" if they could wait 48 hours between use. Our country is allready up past our eyeballs in debt, and you want to add more costs onto the unemployed? 

xela2200's picture

Yes, that is why many employers are also testing hair. Not getting around that one.

sherryw's picture

'People who smoke pot can do most jobs quite well."

Ah, no. People who smoke pot can't think quickly or laterally, or multi-task. We had restaurants and found out very quickly that pot smokers make lousy workers. I imagine it's the same in any high pressure job. You may be referring to lower level desk jockeys.

xela2200's picture

Yeap, pot heads make bad and dificult employees. That has been my experience too in any job environment.

PrintPressPimpin's picture

Using only empirical data through my research I have found that working for squares who dont like to burn makes for a bad and difficult workplace enviornment...lulz

Kali's picture

Drug testing is part of the scam.  Who produces drug test kits/lab supplies?  Big Pharma.  What drugs are "legal" and what drugs are not?  Ohhh, Big Pharma again.  "Legal" drugs kill more people per year (in US )  than illegal drugs.  I would hazard to say that most people who are so impaired by "illegal" drugs that they are not fit for employment are not looking for a stupid job that won't keep them supplied in their habit anyway.

True story:

I remember when drug tests first started coming out @ 30yrs ago.  At the time, I was working at a large Corporate Technical Center.  Without announcement, they tested all employees (except for corporate shill managers and HR people, we were all scientists-chemists, engineers).  over 90% came back positive for pot.  They immediately threw out the tests and announced they would test "yearly" at job performance review time.  Giving everyone a head's up to when they needed to clean up for their test.  They couldn't afford to replace all the employees who failed the test and they wouldn't have been able to find enough skilled people to immediately replace us all anyway. (BTW, this was one of the most corrupt corporations I ever worked for.)

So, really, what good are drug tests anyway and for whom? Total waste of money.

Kali's picture

Wait til they start pee testing for SNAP. : ) 

WmMcK's picture

What happens to the kids of addicted parents?

This is going to lead to even more tragedy.

xela2200's picture

What do you mean?

As it stands right now, Child Services will take their kids. At least, they will have food in the house. Until, they can sell it for drugs.

AN0NYM0US's picture

In the depths of 08 09 in this little resort town in S FL other than the odd geezer in his Crown Vic with a line of traffic behind him,  4pm on a Thursday may as well have been 3am. Saturdays at Home Depot the lot half full and restaurants going out of business right and left

Fastforward to 2012 - the real estate market in just about every segment is hot with prices in the highest end eclipsing prices at the peak - parking lots at the malls are full and mid-day lineups for restaurants the norm and a 15 minute drive to where ever now takes 25 minutes

Local builders (those who survived) are booked out a year and real estate speculators  who jumped in last year are cashing in this year

I have no idea if this is a bellwether, but I suspect it is and it may just be that at least in this corner of Amerika there is some economic traction and momentum

and this is a very rebublican hood but the fear that Obama might pull off a twopete is prevalent

by election time real or fixed the unemployment rate will have a 7 handle

Umh's picture

Actually it's been odd here lately. Central Virginia seemed to have escaped the worst of 2008-09, but I've been approached by panhandlers several times recently in places where I never say them before. I've learned through experience to hear the rehearsed story line and such. Some of these guys are really good or maybe they are truely embarassed.