In December, 2014, there were 141.483 million jobs in this country. Last month — January, 2015 — there were only 138.728 million. Do the math. That equals a loss of 2.755 million jobs for January.
As I said, it’s perfectly normal for jobs to disappear after the holidays. And that’s why Labor tinkers with its numbers and why it came up with the seasonally adjustment growth of 257,000 jobs that you saw in the press release and all the headlines.
But here’s the thing. Seasonal adjustments can go wacky. And they can be manipulated, although you’ll have to draw your own conclusion on that last point.
Let’s take a look at the seasonal adjustment that occurred one year earlier when employment in January, 2014 — after being seasonally adjusted — rose by a very disappointing 113,000 jobs. (This was later revised to a still-weak 166,000 jobs.)
Remember, I’m comparing apples to apples here — the adjustments for two consecutive Januarys.
The untouched, raw data shows there were 138.327 million jobs in the US in December 2013. That number dropped to 135.516 million in January 2014.
So, before seasonal adjustments there was a loss of 2.811 million jobs in this country during January 2014.
The question is: How can a real-life loss of 2.755 million jobs in January 2015 be seasonally adjusted into a healthy, headline-grabbing gain of 257,000 jobs when a real-life loss of 2.811 million jobs the year before resulted in anemic growth — after seasonal adjustments — of just 113,000 (later revised to 166,000) jobs?
The answer is: it can’t.