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How will the January 2012 U.S. national unemployment number, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, be compared to the 8.5% December 2011 reported level?




8.6% or Higher.


Predicted: 22.55%

Actual: 0.00%

Equal to 8.5%


Predicted: 45.24%

Actual: 0.00%

8.4% or Lower.


Predicted: 32.21%

Actual: 100.00%

  • completed

Question ends

February 02, 2012 @ 07:00pm PST

Predictions Made


Most by: SneakyPete (11 predictions)


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SneakyPete   •   Fri Feb 03 2012 at 08:36am PST

Interesting Wallstreet discussion on the Unemployment Rate Drop

What’s Behind the Unemployment Rate Drop?

Whenever the unemployment rate drops, economically savvy observers know to ask a key question: What happened to the employment-population ratio?

Under the government’s definitions, people only count as unemployed when they’re actively looking for work. So when the unemployment rate drops, it could mean that unemployed people found jobs, or it could mean that they gave up looking for work. The employment-population ratio, which measures how many people are actually working, is harder to fool.

Today’s jobs report carries good news on both fronts. The unemployment rate fell, and the employment-population ratio rose. That means the improvement in the labor market is real — people actually found jobs.

The employment gain wasn’t immediately obvious to some observers because of a quirk in this month’s report. Every January, the Labor Department readjusts its data to account for changes in the population. The tweaks are especially significant in years like this one that take into account a new decennial census.

This year, the population adjustment makes it look like the employment-population ratio didn’t change from December to January. In reality, the ratio improved by 0.3 percentage points. The gains were just masked by the population adjustments.

Here’s what happened: According to the Census Bureau, the civilian population grew by 1.5 million people in 2011. But the growth wasn’t distributed evenly. Most of the growth came among people 55 and older and, to a lesser degree, by people 16-24 years old. Both groups are less likely to work than people in their mid-20s to early 50s. So the share of the population that’s working is actually lower than previously believed. Taking that into account, the employment-population ratio went up. The unemployment rate wasn’t affected.

“There was not a big increase in discouraged workers,” economist Betsey Stevenson commented on Twitter. “What happened was Census found a bunch of old people we had assumed died.”

The adjustments had other effects, as well. They made drop in the number of unemployed look smaller than it really was, and the rise in the number of employed look bigger. And because the Labor Department doesn’t readjust its historical data to account for the new calculations, it isn’t possible to compare January’s figures on employment, unemployment and similar measures to those from earlier months.

SneakyPete   •   Fri Feb 03 2012 at 05:55am PST

MFWinAlford   •   Fri Feb 03 2012 at 05:44am PST

Well, I lost money on this one! I was betting it would be flat…

SneakyPete   •   Sat Jan 28 2012 at 11:16am PST

More seek unemployment aid, but trend is positive.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 377,000, up from a nearly four-year low the previous week. But the longer-term trend is pointing to a healthier job market.

Read more:

SneakyPete   •   Sat Jan 28 2012 at 11:12am PST

Next Release: February 3, 2012

The Employment Situation for January 2012 is scheduled to be released on February 3, 2012, at 8:30 A.M. Eastern Time.

wstritt   •   Sun Jan 08 2012 at 06:04pm PST

Is this a trick question? The BLS reports unemployment, not RealClearPolitics. Have they been reporting something different in the past?

historical trend

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