Why Political Bloggers Should Not Comment On Finance & Economics, Part 17,945

4 Feb

Matt Yglesias is at it again (although in fairness, this time is not nearly as bad as the last.

My qualms & comments:

  • Where did he get these #’s from?  He does not say.
  • BLS Private Sector job gains from 1/10->1/11 were + 1,138,000 or + 1,237,000 seasonally adjusted.  Check out table B-1.
  • Yglesias’ chart indicates less than 1,000,000 jobs were added.  If he is using adjusted data as he states, which data is that?  I am not accusing him of using mangled data, but in the absence of any citation, along with #’s that do not match those from the BLS (I know the problems with this data, but that’s been covered elsewhere over/over and I’ve seen at least 3 different adjusted #’s today already!), I have to call his data into question.
  • Many lay-people may think the private sector lost jobs in 2010 (or only gained very few).  While I’m always a fan of correcting ignorant beliefs, were so-doing the point of this post, the title of the chart and the text below should have done a better job of explaining this.  He does acknowledge this in all of 10 words, but I think again, if correcting misconception about private sector employment trends were his main point, he would have dedicated a few more than that.
  • Is this a political post or an economic one?  To me its more the former rather than the latter.  Not just a political piece, but an Us v. Them, Dem v. GOP piece.  That may be Yglesias’ thing, fine, but if you’re going to talk about economics, you should be a bit more rigorous in your commentary…
  • “The Public Sector” is comprised of 3 broad categories: Federal, State, and Local.  Combining them all into one and comparing it to the private sector is a bit intellectually dishonest, especially when the chart title specifically mentions Obama and the text only mentions federal and state congressional shifts (GOP v. Dems).
  • From Jan ’10 to Jan ’11, Government employment declined by 283,000 jobs or 253,000 seasonally adjusted.  Of these, 259,000 and 237,000, 91.5% and 93.6% of Government jobs “lost” were at the local level.

Broadly-speaking, it seems Yglesias’ intent with his post was to explain that Republicians clamoring for private-sector jobs (instead of public sector ones) have already largely gotten their wish, despite their (half ignorant, half intentionally incorrect) rhetoric.

As my friend Joe Weisenthal said in our little twitter discussion that inspired this post, this seems true and with that I really don’t have any problem.  Politicians are schmucks, by and large.
I DO have a problem that he did not explain any nuances inherent in the data he cites, and that he does not say from where he got this data.  Correcting common misconceptions is one, admirable thing.  Doing so while opaquely and grossly-oversimplifying the presentation and explanation is another.

UPDATE: For what its worth, a bit from the BLS about some of their adjustments (notice the huge magnitude of January 2011!).

Here’s David Rosenberg on today’s numbers, and here’s a cute analysis of the revisions to the NFP numbers over the past 2 years.  Scary!

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One Response to “Why Political Bloggers Should Not Comment On Finance & Economics, Part 17,945”

  1. jobs March 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Old classic techniques such as delivering resumes a lot of not be sufficient much more .

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