Sunday, August 29, 2004

Mark Hyman and the "New Math"

They say numbers don’t lie, but when they’re issuing out of Mark Hyman’s mouth, they come pretty close.

On the eve of the RNC, Mark Hyman devotes his “Point” editorial to the gloomy July jobs numbers. According to Hyman, they’re really not all that bad—at least if you look at the “household survey” rather than the “payroll count.” The household numbers are more positive than the payroll numbers, and these numbers are more accurate given that the household survey includes farm laborers, part-time workers, and others who aren’t directly counted by the payroll count.

At least, that’s Hyman’s story. And it does seem like he makes a good case that the Department of Labor Statistics should do away with the antiquated payroll count in favor of the household survey. In fact, there’s only one reason why the DLS uses the payroll count rather than the household survey:

It’s more accurate.

Not only is this according to the DLS itself, but also according to that famous leftwing iconoclast, Alan Greenspan, who said in his testimony at a House hearing on February 11: "I wish I could say the household survey were the more accurate. Everything we've looked at suggests that it's the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow.'' Let’s hope Mr. Hyman uses that 3-semester-hours of macro economics from college and calls up the Fed Chairman to help clarify whatever ignorance poor Mr. Greenspan is laboring under.

Hyman suggests the household survey is somehow more comprehensive, but in fact it only surveys 60,000 households while the payroll count samples data from 400,000 worksites. For the more wonkish of you, there’s a
detailed analysis of the July job numbers, what they mean (and don’t mean), and the household vs. payroll issue from the Economic Policy Institute.

For you bottom-liners out there, all you really need to know about the Bush job record is this: George W. Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs.

We’d love to see you try to spin that one, Mark.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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