The federal government in 2023 overestimated the number of jobs in the U.S. economy by an average of 105,000 per month in initial reports, equating to a cumulative monthly difference of 1.3 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The cumulative number of jobs reported each month was 1,255,000 less than previously thought, with new seasonal and census data affecting total employment estimates, according to data from the BLS calculated by the Daily Caller News Foundation. The huge downward revisions are in spite of a 115,000 upward revision in December, the only month that saw an upward revision to the employment level in 2023.
The biggest revision was for March, which was revised down by a total of 266,000 jobs, followed by January at 234,000 and April at 205,000, according to the BLS. The lowest downward revision was in November, with only 2,000, followed by 11,000 in October.
“Revisions are a normal part of the reporting process, but large changes, or adjustments that consistently move in the same direction, are not normal,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Instead, they’re indicative of something problematic with the BLS’ methodology. That can happen when market conditions change drastically enough to be outside of the assumptions used in their models.”
With the latest revisions, the average month in ’23 was overestimated by 105k jobs – BLS didn’t exactly hit the white… pic.twitter.com/hr5iu6XHKv
— E.J. Antoni, Ph.D. (@RealEJAntoni) February 3, 2024
The revisions are due in part to an overestimate of the number of jobs in the U.S. economy in January 2023 at 155,007,000 instead of the revised 154,773,000, according to the BLS. The job level increased to a revised 157,347,000 by December, totaling an increase of 2,340,000 positions in the year.
The most recent jobs report in February also released an adjustment to the total jobs level, lowering March by 266,000 positions, according to the BLS. The jobs totals were also adjusted to recent census data, throwing off past estimates.
The downward revisions were accompanied by a huge reported gain in February’s jobs report, with the U.S. adding 353,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in January, far higher than the 180,000 that economists anticipated.
Recent years have not seen the same high downward revisions as 2023, with 2022 only seeing negative revisions in five months, equating to a downward revision of 66,000 for the year. March was the only month that was revised down in 2021, with the total number for the year being revised up by nearly 2 million as the country recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Growth in government positions has bolstered recent job numbers, adding a total of 601,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in the past 12 months. The gains have led to an all-time record for government positions at 23,091,000, outdoing a surge in hiring from the 2010 census collections.
“When the economy was rapidly deteriorating at the onset of the Great Recession, the BLS repeatedly and consistently overestimated job levels, which then had to be revised down,” Antoni told the DCNF. “The worsening economic conditions fell outside of the assumptions used by the BLS statisticians, so the estimates became inaccurate. There could be similar problems today due to fallout from the government-imposed recession in 2020 because the labor market still hasn’t recovered.”
The BLS did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.
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