Conservative Media Misrepresent BLS Surveys To Downplay Feb. Job Growth

National Review Online (NRO) and The Washington Examiner distorted last month's jobs report, which found the economy added 236,000 jobs in the month of February, to inaccurately claim more people left the labor force than found employment.

NRO and the Examiner contrasted February job creation totals with the change in the labor force -- a meaningless comparison -- in order to downplay the good news from the job creation figures. The Washington Examiner declared in an editorial titled “False hopes in the new employment numbers,” "[M]ore Americans gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force last month (296,000) than took new jobs (260,000)." Similarly, NRO's blog, The Corner, wrote of the new jobs report:

By most historical measures, the jobs picture remains bleak. Sure, the unemployment rate ticked down. But as I noted Friday, if  today's unemployment rate were measured against the same labor participation as when President Obama took office, it would be 10.7 percent.  

But wait a minute, say Obama supporters, 260,000 jobs were created in February! Yes, seems encouraging. Until you realize that even more people -- 296,000 -- dropped out of the labor market entirely.

NRO and the Examiner are misleadingly comparing numbers from two different surveys. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added 236,000 jobs in the month of February. This figure comes from BLS' Current Employment Survey, a survey of over 400,000 worksites to determine the total number of jobs gained or lost during the month. In addition, BLS conducts a Current Population Survey of approximately 60,000 households to determine the unemployment rate. “There are a number of differences in how employment is counted in the two surveys,” BLS clarified, and so often the surveys' findings differ.

So when the NRO and the Examiner compare the number of those who “dropped out of the labor force,” a stat from CPS, to the monthly job creation, a stat from CES, the comparison is meaningless, as the surveys use different methodologies. In addition, they imply that the 296,000 not in the labor force is the number of people who were seeking work but have stopped looking for jobs. But retirees and teenagers not seeking work are included in the BLS' definition of those “not in the labor force,” so this number includes people who had no intention of seeking work in the month of February:

Not in the labor force (Current Population Survey)

Includes persons aged 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population who are neither employed nor unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching.