Here at "A Dash" we have tried to demonstrate the gap between perception and data. The big story for the mainstream media sources is always negative. Who is interested in something that says the government has a plan that might work?
We have found an innovative way to make the point.
Misunderstanding Job Losses
One of the key problems facing the market is the wide gap in understanding between those who really study data and the journalists writing about it. The journalists are all keyed to their ratings. Often they cite the pop-economist bloggers who know little more than they do, but who also have high readership levels.
In this mutual admiration society the facts can easily get lost. Here is an example.
Dan Gross, writing for Slate, is a good journalist with some helpful economic insight. In his recent article, This Isn't Your Grandfather's Recession, he analyzes opinion about the stimulus package.
He is making a point about why the average person might be more negative about the economy than a Harvard Professor. He writes as follows:
Regular readers of "A Dash" should be able to spot the error in this analysis. We seem to be the only Internet source talking about the actual facts of labor dynamics.
How many people do you really think have "lost a job" in the past year?
If Dan Gross got closer to the data, his point would be even stronger. The 3.6 million job loss is a net figure. The actual dynamics of employment show many more job losses, and also job creation.
People perceive losses, and these get plenty of publicity. There has never been a time when gross job losses were 3.6 million, even in good times. In our economy, job losses are at an annual rate of something like 30 million. These are all widely publicized in layoff announcements. Job gains, mostly through new business formation, are at a run rate of 26 million. The negative perception, which actually makes Gross's point stronger, comes from the gross job losses. We hear little about new job formation.
Readers and pundits alike would do well to look at some data, taken from the recent BLS Job Opening and Labor Turnover (JOLT) analysis:
- At the end of December, there were 2.7 million job openings in the United States. While most might be surprised, thinking this number is large, it is actually very small.
- The hire rate is 2.9% -- also a small number.
- Separations are at a 3.7% rate -- a large number. That is the problem.
- Voluntary separations were 1.5%, a series low. Readers may wonder why anyone would be quitting a job, but it always happens for many personal reasons.
Here is a summary:
Anyone who does not follow the dynamics of the labor market is only telling part of the story. This is important.
The net job loss understates the perceived impact. It also overstates the actual impact, since the job creation is ignored. Most people react to actual gross job loss and layoff announcements. The new jobs get no publicity.