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The numbers beneath the numbers

When you read the unemployment statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, bear in mind that the actual number is likely worse than the headlines indicate.

For example, today’s BLS release mentions (about halfway down) that the October and November 2008 employment stats have been revised. Nonfarm employment in October dropped by 430,000, not the 320,000 job loss originally reported. That’s a difference of 32%. In November, the drop was revised from 533,000 to 584,000–9.5% worse than the original number. The reason revisions are made every month? BLS says the changes are based on additional samples and monthly recalculation of seasonal factors such as retailers hiring additional personnel to cope with holiday shoppers. (This year? Not an issue.)

What does that mean in terms of December’s loss of 524,000 jobs? Well, applying the 9.5% November revision percentage, that would mean that the job loss was actually around 547,000. And if it were revised by as much as the October number was, the December job loss figure would actually be closer to 691,000.

If you’d like to crunch the dismal numbers yourself, you can check out the December BLS report.

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