OK, so this month the guys at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (the BLS of this blog’s title) threw us a slight curveball: Instead of posting their numbers on the first Friday of the month, as they so often do, they are posting those numbers today on the second Friday instead. But though the date may be different this month, the ongoing trend isn’t off at all. Another slight jump in jobs — 227,000 for February, with the majority of the action in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and mining — with unemployment holding steady at 8.3 percent.
There is one nice little positive surprise in this month’s numbers, however: the BLS recast its employment numbers for December 2011 and January 2012, both jumped up a bit. For December, the increase was 20,000 (203K to 223K, about 8.97%); for January 41,000 (243K to 284K, about 14.4%). Numbers revisions happen all the time, but it’s nice when they also reflect an upward trend.
Just to keep readers from busting out the party hats, and declaring early happy hour on this rainy Friday (in the Austin, TX, area where rain itself is pretty good news these days) I’ll throw a dampener on this good news. The first-time unemployment claims for the week ending March 3 came out yesterday and showed an increase of 8,000 claims over the preceding week. But that total number — 362,000 — is still below the magic 400,000 number at which economists believe that economic recovery becomes more problematic here in the USofA. The less volatile four-week moving average (which adds all claims for the last four weeks, then takes the average) is somewhat lower at 355,000.
What does it all mean? Things are still getting better, but only slowly, slowly. This has been our trend since last fall, when slight improvement really announced itself as the “new normal.” Considering other possible alternatives, we’ll take it!