August's Employment Report: More of the Same

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The economy created 169,000 jobs in August. That's nearly identical to the average number of jobs created each month for the last three years. 

More of the same. 

The figure was below estimates, with nearly all the gap between estimates and what was delivered due to a single industry: movie production, possibly linked to a temporary shutdown of the nation's porn industry last month. That's an indication of how volatile these numbers are, and a reminder of how detached they may to the strength of the broader economy. Few commentators bother to mention this imprecision and volatility, and instead reported on the "big miss" in jobs numbers. 

More of the same. 

June and July's job figures were revised down. Quite substantially, too. Nearly every month is revised. This is another reminder that today's jobs number may have no relation to economic reality. Still, analysts lined up to offer their detailed assessments. 

More of the same. 

Americans working part-time for economic reasons fell by more than 300,000 to one of the lowest levels in five years. None of the hundreds of news stories published last month about the surge in part-time workers will be revised. 

More of the same. 

The more familiar you become with the monthly jobs report, the more resigned you become to its lack of relevance. It tells you broad trends when viewed over multimonth periods, but never precision in any given month.

It sounds cynical, but I've come to believe that detailed monthly employment data serves only two people: Those who are being fooled by it and don't know it, and economists and journalists who understand its limitations but feel an obligation to have an opinion and provide analysis. 

The broad trends we know from the jobs market are this: 

  • Things are getting better slowly. Enough jobs are being created to keep up with population growth and bring unemployment down by a little bit.
  • A falling percentage of Americans are taking part in the labor force, largely due to demographics and education, but also because the scars from the Great Recession left some permanently damaged and caused them to give up looking for work.
  • The employment hole left by the Great Recession was so deep that it will likely be years before the job market is back to normal. 

More of the same. 

Spend more time worrying about things you can control and are meaningful -- the decisions you make with your money, your career, and how you spend your free time -- and less on things you can't control that are likely flawed, like monthly jobs reports. 


The article August's Employment Report: More of the Same originally appeared on

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