05 November 2009

Tomorrow's Non-Farm Payrolls Consensus of -175,000 Looks "Do-able"

Tomorrow the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be reporting its October non-farm payrolls number. The consensus of economists is for a job loss of only 175,000 which is an improvement over the prior month loss, but more importantly maintains a steady uptrend as shown in the chart below.

The BLS almost always revises the prior two months, in this case August and September. They tend to 'borrow' from good results and smooth out the trend, or at least they did under the Bush Administration. We will have to wait and see what happens.

The BLS will also have their Birth-Death Model at their backs helping to lift the number with a projected 100k imaginary jobs.

The BLS number will further have the wind at its back because this is a month which the actual number traditionally comes in high, and is seasonally adjusted lower for the 'headline number.'

The good news is that the 12 month moving average of jobs is starting to show a bottoming process IF this number comes in as expected.

We can be sure that the government is looking over these results, keenly. Lyndon Johnson famously pre-approved the number before its release, often sending it back for revision when he did not care for the implied headlines.

We cannot say if that practice still exists, or is handled by lower level functionaries on the Council of Economic Advisors. Who knows, it might even be a relatively honest number by Washington standards.

Watch the Birth Death model and the revisions to September and August in particular. If they 'borrow forward' from August this will be a sign of statistical manipulation in our minds at least.

We do have an open mind, and assume that an improvement in job losses is possible, even likely perhaps. If one throws several trillion dollars at a problem in a short timeframe some result is likely to be produced for it, although in this case it will not most likely last without some fundamental reforms and restructuring.

And it goes without saying that if the number misses by noticeable degree, with all this going for it, then any talk of even a short term recovery is placed on hold.

Governments lie, and people of privilege lie and cheat readily when their results do not match their expectations, on their taxes, in their relationships, in school, at work, all most of all to themselves.

Some of them 'bend the rules' so well that they can go through months without more than one or two losing days of trading in volatile markets, in defiance of all probability and the principle of a symmetrical dissemination of information.