Labor Dept. Unemployment Claims Data Incomplete For One 'Large State'; AP, Reuters Still Suggest That It's Positive
UPDATE: Henry Blodget at Business Insider reports that a "source, who is an analyst at the Department, " has told him that "the number of California claims that were not processed totalled about 15,000-25,000."
Today's release of the Department of Labor's weekly unemployment claims report showed 339,000 initial claims filed during the previous week -- a sharp decline of 30,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 369,000. Shortly after that, the Wall Street Journal reported that "one large state didn't report additional quarterly figures as expected, accounting for a substantial part of the decrease." The Associated Press's framing: "... spokesman said one large state accounted for much of the decline." At Reuters: "one state ... reported a decline in claims last week when an increase was expected."
So you would expect caution in assessing the meaning of the report, right? Wrong -- At the AP and Reuters, they apparently just can't help themselves.
Christopher Rugaber at the AP, in a story accompanied by an unqualified headline every AP-following computer, tablet, and mobile phone will see ("US jobless claims fall to 339K, fewest in 4 1/2 years") wrote that it "could signal a stronger job market," and didn't reveal the lack of info until his fourth paragraph.
At Reuters, Doug Palmer said that it "suggested improvement in the labor market."
The Journal, to its credit, wrote that "the large decline was due in part to a quirk in the data collection," and that "the report may not be as positive as the sharp drop indicates."
Bloomberg's handling was also appropriate. Its unbylined report didn't make an evaluation, only noting that the report "may reflect difficulty adjusting the data for seasonal swings at the start of a new quarter."
One of the following would most likely be the "large state" with incomplete or suspect reporting: California (running at about 50,000 new claims per week), Florida (13K), Georgia (10K), Illinois (12K), Michigan (10K), New York (22K), North Carolina (10K), Ohio (10K), Pennsylvania (19K), or Texas (16K). A "quirk" could easily sharply reduce today's 30,000 reduction, which will almost definitely be reduced next week anyway because of normal upward revision which have occurred in all but one or two of the past 80 weeks.
We don't know the impact of the snafu DOL cited, so making any kind of judgment on it is unwarranted. But that didn't stop AP or Reuters from making one in October of a presidential election year where their guy's situation seems to be deteriorating almost daily.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.