Turns Out We Weren't Adding 200K Jobs a Month

Department of Labor revises job gains figures, with 501K fewer than previously estimated
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2019 6:37 AM CDT
The Feds Just Slashed Job Growth Estimates. By a Lot
In this June 4, 2019, photo, managers wait for job applicants at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood during a job fair in Hollywood, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

It's not uncommon for the Department of Labor to revise job growth numbers. It actually does so annually, when, instead of using the surveys that help form those initial estimates, it reviews unemployment insurance records in each state to come up with more accurate figures. What is uncommon is how big of a gap between those two numbers exists this time around: On Wednesday, the agency announced it slashed total US job gains (not counting farms) from April 2018 to March 2019 by 501,000—what USA Today reports was the "largest downward revision in a decade." That translates to around 170,000 jobs added each month on average, not the 210,000 originally estimated. Even further changes in the numbers are possible in February 2020 when the final benchmark revision is issued, the New York Times notes.

The update isn't bad, but it's not as stellar as the figures President Trump has been touting. "It's a moderate economy," an economist with Naroff Economic Advisors tells USA Today. "It's not a strong economy." Consumer-tied industries like leisure/hospitality and retail saw the greatest reductions, while the information, financial activities, and transportation and warehousing sectors saw modest boosts. The Times notes this leveling-off isn't a "total surprise," as employers had a tougher time finding workers with such low unemployment. And the Wall Street Journal notes there were gains in other areas, with personal income and household savings coming in higher than initial estimates. Still, all the numbers swirling around now make more sense. "The mystery was how the economy is continuing to get 200,000 jobs a month," a TD Economics analyst tells USA Today. "It's less of a mystery now." (Is our next economic worry a recession?)

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