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.
TrimTabs believes the job growth picture lies somewhere in between TrimTabs estimate and the BLS’. Looking forward to February and March, we will have a much cleaner picture of job growth as we move away from the effects of tax law changes, bonus season, and enormous seasonal adjustments.
A comparison of TrimTabs’ real-time withholding tax based employment results versus the BLS’ preliminary and revised results from January 2011 through January 2012 are summarized in the following table:
and from details from his blog (for the press corps to perhaps dig a little deeper):
Obviously I am quite suspicious of the numbers that I see in today’s BLS press release. Remember most financial journalists and even stock market strategists do nothing more than rewrite government press releases. So do not expect very few others to question the good news.
For those of you who care, look at Table B-1, Total Nonfarm Employment in today’s BLS press release. Start with the non seasonally adjusted table that shows that in November 2011, there were 133.172 million actual jobs. Actual jobs dropped by 220,000 jobs in December and actual jobs dropped an additional 2.7 million in January. Only as a result of unknown seasonal adjustments, could the BLS report 243,000 new hires in January.
Yes, the labor market contracts during the winter and expands in the spring and summer. Could this number be manipulated? Of course it could. Is it? I don’t know. Am I the only suspicious soul out here? Hope not. Certainly feels lonely right now.
Finally, and this is a repeat of what we said prior using SIFMA data (so originating at the US banksthemsleves), for the US unemployment to be declining, Federal tax withholdings have to be rising: there is no way around it! Instead, as the chart below shows, trailing quarterly collections have just turned negative.