Who Has A Job? Who Doesn't?

I talked with All Things Considered's Melissa Block today about how hard it is to figure out how many people are employed or unemployed in the US.

This week —as happens every month— we get a confusing stream of data.

Yesterday, the payroll company ADP gave its Employment Report, based on the actual paychecks going out for 400,000 of their clients. They recently revised their statistical methods, after years of folks mocking them for generally being pretty lousy at predicting what the overall national numbers would show. Let's hope so. This week, they're report said that nearly 700,000 people lost jobs last month.

Today, the Department of Labor let us know how many people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. It was bad, but nowhere near as bad as folks expected. Only 467,000 people filed new claims for unemployment. Sadly, these days that counts as relatively good news.

Tomorrow, the big numbers come out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will give us a far more detailed and—according to most—more accurate picture of US employment. We'll learn how many people are getting paychecks and what the unemployment percentage is. The reports are quite accessible and fascinating to read. You can get a sense of how different occupations, regions, minority groups are doing in the economy.

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