Patterico's Pontifications


Summers: Ignore February’s Jobless Numbers

Filed under: Government,Obama — DRJ @ 11:34 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

White House economic adviser Larry Summers explains why Americans should ignore February’s jobless numbers:

“White House economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday winter blizzards were likely to distort U.S. February jobless figures, which are due to be released on Friday.

“The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. So it’s going to be very important … to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends,” Summers said in an interview with CNBC, according to a transcript.”

This almost certainly means the numbers are bad or, as Obama’s adoring media describes it: “unexpected.”


24 Responses to “Summers: Ignore February’s Jobless Numbers”

  1. This “excuse” ranks right up there with major corporations that used to spin disappointing quarterly numbers by explaining there was one fewer weekend in the current reporting period vesus the previous one. Or that a single snowstorm made revenues drop by 10%.

    Patently ridiculous.

    Dr. K (1c5e6a)

  2. I’m sure a drought in the summer will lead to the same ‘explanation’ for the continued bad employment numbers. Eventually, the moon will be blamed. After all, our politicians are lunatics.

    RickZ (515f30)

  3. Actually this may be the case of “expected”

    imdw (490521)

  4. Well, how many times can you blame Bush? If you blame the weather, you can trumpet that Global Warming thing again. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    Of course this was “expected”. If you don’t do what is necessary to help the economy (for the Feds, that would mean exiting stage left) you should not expect the job market to get better.

    Corwin (ea9428)

  5. There is some value to Summers’ argument. A complete shutdown of 1/10 of the population centers of the country for the space of a week should have an appreciable negative effect on economic activity for a period that only measures 12 weeks. New jobless claims would be a secondary or tertiary result of that negative effect.

    However, it should be an estimable effect. I worry that his comments were presaging some pretty depressing numbers and he’s trying to get out ahead of the report to run damage control.

    Hadlowe (30df33)

  6. You heard it, unemployed Americans – just ignore it and go play in the snow.

    By the way – aren’t their figures seasonally adjusted?

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  7. So, we’re supposed to believe that a blizzard in on specific area of the country accounts for bad job numbers? Pull the other one, Larry.

    the wolf (0dce92)

  8. So, if he dresses like a pimp he’s a racist, but if he doesn’t dress like a pimp he’s a liar? Must be great to be a liberal-EVERYTHING you say is the truth!

    PRM (310ebf)

  9. It’s almost certainly true that the blizzards had an effect on the jobless figure; even companies who wanted to hire people wouldn’t have held interviews and made hiring decisions during the blizzard, and many sectors of the economy lost significant chunks of money during the blizzard.

    That’s entirely normal.

    The problem with Mr. Summers’ comment is not that it’s a bad excuse to say that the weather hurt the economy – it’s that he’s asking us to gauge the underlying trends in a context which implies that the trends are for economic growth, while it’s not actually clear that the trends support that. That is to say, what he implies with his words might well be contradictory to what the underlying trends reveal.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  10. i think the key here is for everyone to continue their “moderate alcohol consumption”, and everything will look better.

    after all, that’s what they’re doing at the White House.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  11. Ah, there’s the rub! AGW exists, but Snowmageddon hurt the jobless numbers. Two lies exposed for the price of one!!!

    Icy Texan (2d3333)

  12. Is something which is not true a lie if it is honestly believed by the person proferring it?

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  13. aphrael – I think no, right up to the point where they are presented the information that shows their beliefs to be mistaken.

    JD (0f9c01)

  14. JD – right. Which was my point to Icy Texan – there’s certainly no information which shows that it is untrue that the snowstorms hurt the jobless numbers, and if there were such information, Icy Texan would have no way of knowing that Summers had been handed that information.

    As far as I can see, in calling the claim a “lie”, Icy Texan is presuming that Summers is a liar, rather than extending him the benefit of the doubt and simply claiming he is wrong.

    It’s a debating style I find pernicious, so when I’m feeling ornery, I’m inclined to argue about it. :)

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  15. Is something which is not true a lie if it is honestly believed by the person proferring it?
    Comment by aphrael — 3/2/2010 @ 2:33 pm

    Hmm… good question. According to many on the left, the answer is yes as long as you’re talking about President Bush and pretty much every Intelligence Organization of every free country in the world, in reference to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Otherwise, not so much. 😉

    Stashiu3 (44da70)

  16. When it comes to thingies like Intelliogy, it is the default assumption. We await the exception.

    JD (0f9c01)

  17. Stashiu3: and note that I was never one of the people making the “Bush lied, people died” claim. I think the intelligence agencies believed what they were saying, and were wrong — and I’d like to see some work put into figuring out how they got it so badly wrong so as to reduce the likelihood of future occurrances.

    That said, I don’t know how that investigation could be conducted without it turning into a witch hunt.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  18. Before remembering that this was the Obama administration, I thought it was because the February numbers would be better because of temporary snow removal and repair (electric, infrastructure) jobs.

    Obviously, though, they wouldn’t be warning us against ‘too good to be true’ numbers.

    But alas. I think that makes it all the more worse if the numbers are very bad.

    John S (b4892f)

  19. aphrael – It would be easy to do, it would just require honest people.

    JD (0f9c01)

  20. I know aphrael, hence the ” 😉 “. I don’t think they (the Intel Community) were all that wrong, plus you have to give credit to Saddam for a convincing facade about what he actually did or didn’t have. I believe he had less than what we were afraid was possible, but more than what has been reported. He presented himself as stronger than he really was because Russia and France were assuring him that President Bush would never invade. Big mistake.

    Stashiu3 (44da70)

  21. I think that Stashiu and DRJ could evaluate the information objectively. You too aphrael.

    JD (0f9c01)

  22. aphrael,

    Does Larry Summers get the monthly unemployment numbers early so he already knows the February 2010 numbers and he knew them before he made his comment? If not, then he’s just spinning. However, if he already knows the numbers, what other information does he have access to that made it possible for him to “gauge the underlying trends”?

    My point is that, as the Administration’s economic adviser, it’s incumbent on Summers to point out the facts he’s relying on to dispute the unemployment numbers.

    DRJ (daa62a)

  23. When will they start expecting the “unexpected”? Please don’t ask Summers for an explanation of ANTHING… the man can drone on and on like no other.

    GeneralMalaise (c58b20)

  24. what other information does he have access to that made it possible for him to “gauge the underlying trends”?

    that’s a good question.

    as the Administration’s economic adviser, it’s incumbent on Summers to point out the facts he’s relying on to dispute the unemployment numbers.

    that would be true if he were an academic economist, as well.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

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