The Case for “Jobs Day”
February 10, 2015
I have long maintained a skepticism of the ridiculous “wonk” hobby of obsessing over “Jobs Day.” The first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a report on the employment situation in the country.
I am still skeptical. The cultural phenomenon of "Jobs Day," as practiced by economic journalists – where people obsess over small granular details that are likely to be revised substantially anyway – remains kind of dumb. But since I published my case against "Jobs Day," the economy has improved substantially. There have been three reports published since I last visited the subject, and, honestly, they’re quite a lot better. Over the last three months, the BLS shows a total of 1.009 million jobs added, or about 336,000 per month. Figures for December and January are still only preliminary and may change, but this is very likely to be the single best three-month stretch of my adult life.
My case against compulsive reporting of the nonfarm payrolls number has been twofold: first, that amounts like 190,000 jobs are basically meaningless – they mostly mean that the population grew (as it tends to do) and that the economy remained roughly the same as it always did. And second, that a single month’s worth of data is usually insignificant.
Neither of these critiques applies when we look at the last three months, as a whole. The case for “Jobs Day,” if you will, is that if you group several Jobs Days together, you can start to see meaningful trends. It is unquestionable that the labor market is finally on the rise.
As of early last November, I wrote this: “It's almost pathetic to see policy journalists parse the report for whether it shows 150,000 or 200,000 jobs this time. We need something more like ten million.”
The general sentiment remains true. But three months later, I’d knock that number back from ten million to nine, and that’s absolutely a difference worth celebrating.