Fox Anchor Promotes Bogus Theory That Holiday Season Hiring Explains Jobs Numbers
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Fox anchor Jenna Lee ignored the facts to suggest that holiday season hiring may explain why the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent. In fact, the government agency responsible for the jobs report takes into account seasonal factors such as holiday hiring when it releases unemployment figures.
On Fox News' Happening Now, Lee said to former Republican governor John Engler: "Some of our viewers have asked questions about whether or not we're seeing seasonal hiring as we get closer to the holidays. So how much of a factor do you think that really is, governor?" Engler responded: "Well, Halloween's the second-largest retail holiday that we have, so it's a factor. I'm not going to say that that's the whole story, it isn't."
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases the jobs report, says that it adjusts jobs numbers for seasonal fluctuations such as "the hiring (and layoff) patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season."
Without the seasonal adjustment, the unemployment rate would be even lower at 7.6 percent.
From the BLS website:
How are seasonal fluctuations taken into account?
Total employment and unemployment are higher in some parts of the year than in others. For example, unemployment is higher in January and February, when it is cold in many parts of the country and work in agriculture, construction, and other seasonal industries is curtailed. Also, both employment and unemployment rise every June, when students enter the labor force in search of summer jobs.
The seasonal fluctuations in the number of employed and unemployed persons reflect not only the normal seasonal weather patterns that tend to be repeated year after year, but also the hiring (and layoff) patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season and the summer vacation season. These variations make it difficult to tell whether month-to-month changes in employment and unemployment are due to normal seasonal patterns or to changing economic conditions. To deal with such problems, a statistical technique called seasonal adjustment is used. This technique uses the past history of the series to identify the seasonal movements and to calculate the size and direction of these movements. A seasonal adjustment factor is then developed and applied to the estimates to eliminate the effects of regular seasonal fluctuations on the data. When a statistical series has been seasonally adjusted, the normal seasonal fluctuations are smoothed out and data for any month can be more meaningfully compared with data from any other month or with an annual average. Many time series that are based on monthly data are seasonally adjusted.
Since the BLS released its latest jobs report, the conservative media has been waging a campaign to discredit the BLS and its data.