Reclaiming Common Sense

There is some form of data released every day of the work week. This column attempts to examine the data, filter out the noise, and produce articles with both speed and accuracy. The problem is that the vast majority of the people reporting on the economic data are actually reporting on the report. It takes some digging into the data to find real patterns. It also takes effort to find the raw, non-seasonally adjusted data, and to keep track of the edits made to the data. Most data has an advance value, a preliminary value, and a final value. Sometime the final data is revised again. Sometimes there is so much going on in the world of government data that some of the data analysis is delayed. The analysis of the Consumer Price Index data was delayed until this past week. There was no delay in the analysis of the January Jobs Report data. This jobs data will undergo more analysis next week while the other analysts move on to the topic du jour

(Jan 30) The December Consumer Price Index Report was released January 18th, two days prior to the Inauguration of President Trump. Do you remember it? The report, not the inauguration. The CPI data records increases in various sectors and can e broken down to the nth degree. The problem is that each sector and sub-sector has its own seasonal factor that can change from month to month and year to year. Buying blueberries is more expensive some months than other months. The problem is that we literally, and figuratively, need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. The rest of the people reporting on this data like to exclude the "volatile food and energy" sectors. I wish I could exclude those items, however they are essential in this day and age. So what happened?

(Jan 31) The Gross Domestic Product is an indicator of economic health. When the GDP is negative for back to back quarters the country is officially in a recession. The headline number is the annualized, Table 1, single quarter value. This is the change from the immediate quarter. If a the prior quarter us negative and there is substantial improvement, the following quarter may have a distorted value. The Real GDP number is the annual GDP measure from the same quarter from the prior year, Table 8 data. You may have heard that President Obama never had a full year of GDP growth of 3.0% or higher. This month's data was interesting because it was the advance value for the fourth quarter. There will be a preliminary value released next month and a "final" value released the following month. The data was also interesting because we saw such a surge during the third quarter and such a disappointing fourth quarter. This month the GDP data disappointed, again.

(Feb 1) Everymonth there are a series of columns written. Whether it is the monthly jobs report forecast article or the monthly job report result article, or the follow-up columns pertaining to men and women in the workforce, the level of dual job workers in the workforce or comparing the Four most recent two term Presidents at the same point in their Presidencies, the data keeps rolling and the articles keep flowing. Sometimes one column strikes a chord month in and month out. The month of January provides a unique opportunity for multiple "week in Review" columns, a "Top Ten Columns of December" columns and a "Top Ten of the Year" article.This column covers more than just the Jobs Report. Other items that are regularly presented in this column have to do with housing data, the consumer price index data, retail sales, and the weekly unemployment claims report. The article "Top Ten Columns of January 2017" reviews the most read columns of January.

(Feb 1)  This week the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee abdicated their responsibility to vote on two of President Trump's nominees for cabinet positions. They boycotted the hearings, plural, en masse.  The column "Democrats Boycotting Nomination Votes" shows you who was boycotting and who is up for reelection during the 2018 mid-term elections plus provides Twitter handles for you to reach out to them.

(Feb 2)  The Weekly Unemployment Claims Report used to be a mainstay of Thursday morning business news. Channels would take a commercial break at 8:29 am and return with the report in the palms of their hands. There are three numbers in each weekly unemployment claims: The First-time (FTU) Claims, The Continuing Claims (CC,) and the Covered Unemployed Percentage. Each has a seasonally adjusted (SA) and a non seasonally adjusted (NSA) component. Each has an advance value, a preliminary value, and a final value. The preliminary data released this week increased both for the first time and continuing claim number. They are no longer promoting the SA FTU streak for weeks under 300,000 claims. This column has produced numerous article debunking the streak. Maybe someone who writes the weekly report read those articles. This week we saw the first-time claims data skewed, again.This week we saw the "Continuing Unemployment Claims Creep" higher.

(Feb 3) February 3rd was Jobs Report Day. There are two data sets that are used to create the jobs report and both data sets have a non-seasonally adjusted component and a seasonally adjusted component. The devil is in the details. The seasonal factors were skewed for both the Current Population Survey data and the Current Employment Statistics data. The population data was drastically revised downward, providing an imaginary bump to the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) workforce participation rate. The other missing story in other coverage is that part-time jobs fell dramatically. For more information read "Bogus January Jobs Numbers."

The upcoming week will see the production of the "Four Presidents at 96 Months" article (Hint: The real unemployment situation is much worse than is being reported when the participation rate is factored into the data.). The Jobs report data was collected through January 12th. The January Jobs report was President Obama's final full jobs report. It will also examine the data by Job Sector (Hint: Every Sector Lost Jobs last month and some have not recovered to pre-recession levels.) It will also examine the recovery for men and women as well as examine the data by age group.

Hint: It's the economy.