Hey, remember back when Georgia’s unemployment rate looked bad?

As you may recall, Georgia’s gubernatorial election last year got real close in the opinion polls during the late summer, in large part because of a sudden, inexplicable spike in the state’s unemployment rate. Economists were practically unanimous in their inability to explain why the jobless rate was going in the wrong way while so many other economic indicators were moving in the right direction. Yet Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign and supporters seized on that one figure as evidence Georgia’s economy wasn’t as good as Gov. Nathan Deal said it was.

One of the things noted at the time was that unemployment figures for the whole year would be eventually revised, and probably downward to a great extent, but not until 2015. Well, those revisions are out, and here’s the picture they paint when compared with the numbers at hand prior to the election:

UE rate original vs revised

The above chart stops at September 2014 because that was the last jobless report that came out before the election, and it goes back one full year before that. In each of the last two reports before the election, the rate was a full percentage point higher than it was after the revision.

Now, this does not mean the books were cooked. Going back three years from the report for September 2014, there were a couple of months that were off by 0.8 percentage points, so a large disparity isn’t unheard of. It is, however, pretty rare: On average during those three years, the original number was 0.1 points higher than the eventual, revised number for that month. Here’s a graph for that whole three-year period, plus the end of 2014:

UE rate 2

The take-away message is fairly simple. The jobless rate is a rather volatile and even unreliable indicator that ends up looking much smoother once additional information allows for a fuller picture. When all the other economic data suggest the economy is doing fine, a sudden, short-term bump in the jobless rate doesn’t mean the economy isn’t fine. It probably doesn’t even mean the job market isn’t fine. Beware politicians and other interested parties who would tell you otherwise.

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35 comments
LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

As I predicted at the time, the numbers would be trued up after the election.

The books can be cooked, but only for a short time.

Caius
Caius

"When all the other economic data suggest the economy is doing fine, a sudden, short-term bump in the jobless rate doesn’t mean the economy isn’t fine."

In other words, thank you President Obama?  Is this what this column is about?  How about the country at 5.5 and GA is still at 7+. 


Losing the Daimler deal to SC really hurts. But we have two new employers coming on line, Caterpillar in 2015 and Baxter in 2018.  Both will significantly improve these numbers.

Mr_Snarky
Mr_Snarky

It's a miracle!...with Obamacare coming online, we should have unemployment at like 25%...or something...because its a "trainwreck"...right?  And yet we continue to overcome these "train wrecks".

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Anyone with a brain who paid attention to the local economy, the companies relocating to Georgia and the help wanted notices popping up everywhere knew the "spike" was just an anomaly. The Dems tried their best to exploit it, but to their credit the voters figured it out. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Some one must have had their thumb on the scale.  Why are we not surprised?  


Well, I guess we can sooth ourselves with that $2500 per year we are saving on healthcare! 

MarkVV
MarkVV

I wonder again (or perhaps not) why it is that the unemployment numbers for Georgia are viewed by conservatives as glass half full, and the unemployment numbers for the US as glass half empty. Here again, when Kyle is being reminded that “country is at full employment (5.5 percent ), while "Georgia not so much,” Kyle reminds us that many of the employed in the US are “in part-time jobs when they want full-time work but can't find it.” Does that no apply to Georgia as well, so that Georgia is still worse off than most other states?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@MarkVV Unemployment in Georgia and nationally is an Obamanation, it was just not as bad here as the Obama DOL made out during the months approaching the election, go figure.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Well, I'm sure Jim Galloway and Jay Bookman will have columns out tomorrow headlining those corrected employment numbers.

Or perhaps when pigs fly.



Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@EdUktr Maybe


Or Maybe they will point out we are still 41st.


Are we really bragging about that ?

MANGLER
MANGLER

Last week Rick Perry was touting how pointless the UE numbers are, because they were making Texas look particularly bad at that moment.  It would be nice if they weren't politicized.  But then again, pretty much everything is.

straker
straker

"they want full time work but can't find it"


That's because your big business idols have outsourced as many jobs as possible, showing no patriotism and no loyalty to the American worker.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@straker

No doubt big business is offshoring in search of higher taxes, out-of-control government regulation, and incessant business bashing.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Where was "Nobel Prize Winning Economist (cough cough) Paul Krugman on this?  Oh....it was hurting an R politician, so of course he sat on his hands (and his NYTIMES keyboard), and didn't look into it.  


Of course, he would've destroyed the lie if a liberal Dem gov was being made to look bad.


What a hypocrite - along with the rest of the "mass media".

MarkVV
MarkVV

@dcdcdc  A more inane attack on Paul Krugman would be hard to find. He was supposed to check some numbers for Georgia? And you should take something for that cough - Pauul Krugman sure is a Nobel Prize Winner - are you?

TicTacs
TicTacs

I think you really want to say the books are cooked,  you know the paranoid bias....

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Jefferson1776 You mean after I wrote "this does not mean the books were cooked"? And that the takeaway is not to put such emphasis on a volatile indicator when all the other indicators point in a different direction? You didn't see any other angles besides those?

TicTacs
TicTacs

@Kyle_Wingfield @Jefferson1776  I know you wrote it, I read it.  If it didn't bounce you wouldn't have to bring up the election or this fact that it bounced.  Just add doubt....

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

What are we up to now ?


45th ?


The country is at full employment ( 5.5 percent )


Georgia not so much. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar As of December, tied for 41st. And our rate is down 0.2 points since then.

Oh, and since when did "full employment" leave 6.6M workers in part-time jobs when they want full-time work but can't find it?

HistoryofMatt
HistoryofMatt

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar What's funny about Heady, Kyle, is he wants to believe the U3 numbers are real, but refuses to understand that it's the U6 numbers that matter.


Hey Heady, we're at the lowest labor participation point we've had in well over 30 years. People have completely dropped out of the workforce.


And try as you might, but you can't blame W or the idiots in the GOP for those problems. Oh no. You have to blame O and your own favored idiots for that.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield As of December, tied for 41st. And our rate is down 0.2 points since then.


Wow. We are almost out of the bottom 20 percent


Awesome work guys. Keep moving forward on that Religious Liberty Bill so badly needed in the Peach State.

HistoryofMatt
HistoryofMatt

I think what you meant to say, Kyle, was:


"Jay Bookman, you big dummy!"

HistoryofMatt
HistoryofMatt

@Kyle_Wingfield @HistoryofMatt That's more of a joke. Still, Jay was touting those numbers in a YOOOGE way back before the election last year.


I don't expect a retraction.


Like we've yet to get a retraction from him about the 20,000 Lois Lerner emails the IRS just found that I spent 2 weeks arguing with him on twitter that there was no way they could be lost in the way in which they said they were lost because the emails are not backed up on individual HDDs and the whole tape thing was a lie. It's not 1978 at the IRS.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@HistoryofMatt @Kyle_Wingfield Most companies only back up 6 months worth of email


The IRS is no different. 


If you don't work in IT please dont comment on these things. 


If they found them it was a data recovery miracle Not part of some backup they were hiding and just now found. Reading now they found most of them from other people she had sen the emails too. Pretty routine stuff. 


No one uses tape backups anymore.


And what is in those emails.....Nothing.

PinkoNeoConLibertarian
PinkoNeoConLibertarian

@Kyle_Wingfield @HistoryofMatt 

Like too many of the constituency these days, it's all about the messenger rather than the message. 

I, for one, am happy that so many more people are working. I'm not the least bit happy that so many have to settle for much less than they have shown they are capable of. Ever the optimist, I'm hopeful that will change over time as well.

As for full employment...while it's true that there are still a great many people out of work, to the people that managed to find a decent, well paying job, it is full employment.