Friday's Real Payroll Number: 750,000 Meaning Total Unemployment Rate at 19.8%

by: Tyler Durden

John Williams, who runs the great Shadow Government Statistics site, presents the true numbers behind Friday's "seriously flawed BLS payroll reporting." The upside bias coming out of the BLS is almost scandalous: one wonders how much "push from above" there is to concoct these numbers.

From John's distribution Friday:

BLS Jobs Reporting Is Seriously Flawed, at Best. This morning’s (April 3rd) reported March jobs loss of 663,000 again was close to consensus expectations, but, as has been common in recent releases, major downward revisions to prior reporting helped to mute the current headline jobs loss significantly. In each of the six most recent monthly payroll reports, the prior month’s payroll level was revised lower. For October 2008 to March 2009 reporting, the downward revisions to the prior month’s seasonally-adjusted payroll level were respectively: 179,000, 199,000, 154,000, 311,000 (still significant net of benchmark revisions), 161,000 and 86,000. Five of the six revisions exceeded the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 95% confidence interval of +/- 129,000 jobs for monthly change.

Net of revisions, the March jobs loss would have been 749,000. Net of the Concurrent Seasonal Factor Bias (CSFB), which reflects the reporting problems, the loss would have been 750,000, in line with my estimate in the March 29th Flash Update.

Payroll Survey. The BLS reported a statistically-significant, seasonally-adjusted jobs loss of 663,000 (down 749,000 net of revisions) +/- 129,000 (95% confidence interval) for March 2009, following an unrevised 651,000 jobs loss in February, but January’s jobs loss was revised from 655,000 to 741,000. Annual contraction (unadjusted) in total nonfarm payrolls continued to deepen, down 3.56% in March, versus a revised 3.10% (was 3.12%) in February. The annual decline in March was the deepest since July 1958. The seasonally-adjusted series also continued contracting year-to-year, down by 3.48% in March versus a revised 3.08% (was 3.02%) contraction in February.

click to enlarge

During the Clinton Administration, "discouraged workers" — those who had given up looking for a job because there were no jobs to be had — were redefined so as to be counted only if they had been "discouraged" for less than a year. This time qualification defined away the bulk of the discouraged workers. Adding them back into the total unemployed, unemployment in line with common experience, as estimated by the SGS-Alternate Unemployment Measure, rose to about 19.8% in March, from 19.1% in February.

ZH is now taking bets what the backward revisions will be for February and March, when April and May numbers are announced (assuming the U.S. hasn't defaulted by then).