Friday, December 03, 2004

Lies, damn lies and Wall Street math

November Job Growth Unexpectedly Weak

"The U.S. economy created only 112,000 new jobs in November, the government said on Friday, about a third of October's total and weak enough to deepen a shadow of uncertainty hanging over the holiday sales season.

The November figure from the Labor Department, the weakest job creation since July, is likely to aggravate consumer worries about job security and rising energy costs, which already have sales off to a soggy start.

The job total was well under forecasts for 180,000 new hires last month, though the unemployment rate eased to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in October.

Separately, a report from the New York-based Institute for Supply Management pointed to further growth in the nation's service sector but also underlined caution about hiring.

In a further sign the labor market is improving only slowly, the Labor Department lowered its estimates for job growth in both September and October.

October's gain was marked down to 303,000 from an originally reported 337,000-job increase. The department cut September's total to 119,000 from 139,000.

Still, several analysts noted that, on average, job growth over the past three months was approaching the 200,000 mark, consistent with continued growth even if the monthly pattern is uneven."

I love that. "Several" analysts would like you to believe that 178K is "approaching" the 200K mark, and they'd also like you to believe that the mean in this case is a useful measure of central tendency. The 303K month, of course, was an abberation attributable to hurricane clean-up efforts in the southeast. If we keep getting smacked by serial natural disasters, the economy will be humming in no time.

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