Jonathan Chait

Jobs News: Good Or Bad?

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David Leonhardt has your rundown:

How you view today’s jobs report depends on snow.

Coming into today, many economists believed that last month’s storms on the East Coast which occurred right before the Labor Department conducted its monthly jobs survey would temporarily reduce employment by a significant amount. Macroeconomic Advisers, a well-regarded research firm in St. Louis, thought the effect would be between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs lost. Those jobs effectively would have disappeared in February and largely returned in March.

If the storms indeed had a big effect if they cut even 100,000 jobs from payrolls then today’s report counts as very good news. ...

But that’s not the only plausible reading of the report. It’s also possible that economists vastly overestimated the snow effect. It’s even possible the snow effect was close to zero. ...

Which of these two situations the optimistic or pessimistic one is more plausible? You’ll hear a lot of strong arguments today, but no one really knows. The uncertainty about the snow effect is too big, as the Labor Department did a nice job of acknowledging.

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