Reclaiming Common Sense

This week was another slow week for data. The weekly jobs report that is normally released on the first Friday  of the month will be released next Friday, the second Friday of the month. This meant that this column was able to research other issues without the pressures of preparation for the jobs article. It is important to note that the President gave his first address to the Joint Session of Congress and that the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 21,000 level for the first time.

(March 1) The story that gets a ton of attention in the press, and yet gets into very little detail, is the looming Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid funding crises. This column, and its predecessor, have dug into the trustee reports for the Medicare/Medicaid Trust Fund and the Social Security Trust Fund.  and found that there were multiple requests to raise revenue shortfall to keep the programs viable. The problem is that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security are "off -budget" programs and their surpluses have been used to reduce "on-budget" deficits. The article "Uncle Sam: Trust Fund Baby Gone Bust" details the most recent suggestions for payroll tax increase and how the last time the programs were "saved" by President Reagan actually just made a larger slush fund to reduce  the on-budget deficits.

(March 2) The beginning of the month, for this column, means reviewing the top ten article read during the prior month. The article "Top Ten Articles February 2017" rehashed the articles that caught your attention, including three week in review columns, a month in review column, and columns regarding the federal debt, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation report, the jobs report, and housing data.

(March 2) A staple of this column, and a former staple of business news, is the regular Thursday release of the weekly unemployment claims report, including first-time unemployment claims and continuing claims. We have a low level of participation, unemployed people are participants, and elevated levels of people working multiple jobs. People who work multiple jobs and lose one do not qualify for unemployment benefits. People who work seasonal jobs or part-time jobs do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Thursday's column asked "Are Unemployment Claims Too Low?"

(March 3)  The most anticipated number of the month, and the most misunderstood number, is the jobs number. The jobs number is a seasonally adjusted worker number where the seasonal factors change from month to month, season to season, and year to year. There are two data sets, the Current Population Survey (CPS) data and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) data. February is a great month for Full-time and Part-time Job Creation. Unemployment normally falls and participation normally improves. The authors of the report have been using 'creative' seasonal factors to bolster the jobs numbers during the final months of the Obama Administration. "How Will  Jobs Numbers Be Skewed Next Friday" projects the growth rates anticipated and makes an educated guess for the seasonal factors used to convert the non-seasonally adjusted data to the seasonally adjusted data. This is the first jobs report with data collected after the inauguration.

The media discusses FACTs (False Assertions Considered to be True) as if they are Gospel. The record low levels of SA First-time Unemployment Claims - A FACT. President Obama's Job Streak - a FACT. How will the jobs data be skewed? Will they invent a new seasonal factor, as they have during prior months? Will they revised last months data up to bring down the month to month changes. Will they do both? Read the forecast article. and compare it with the results article  next Friday. It should be a great report.

It's the economy.