Explaining Southern California's economy

February jobs report: Just what the doctor ordered

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

A real recovery in the U.S. jobs market is definitely building up a head of steam, but at this point it's still a slow process. The February jobs report is out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and while it's not a home run or even a nice stand-up double, it's still pretty solid: The economy added 227,000 jobs in the shortest month of the year. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.3 percent.

That's the headline number, but what's really encouraging about this report is the revision to the January data. The BLS initially reported 243,000 jobs added, but that number has been revised up to 284,000, which means that on an adjusted basis we're getting closer to the 300-350,000 new-jobs-per-month number that would start to move the national unemployment level much lower. 

In any case, if the trend of upward revisions continues — the past two months have both been revised up the following month — then we can expect February to look better by the time the March data rolls in come April. The bottom line is that the official number came is slightly higher, by around 10,000 jobs, than both the ADP report and the so-called economic "consensus." It also beat bullish predictions that said we'd add less than 200,000 jobs and see the unemployment rate actually rise. 

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February jobs report: Better than January?

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release its February jobs report on Friday. The January report was better than expected, with the country adding 243,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 8.3 percent. The big question for February is, "Will the improving trend continue?"

Chances are good. The ADP report — which hasn't been all that reliable a predictor of the BLS data of late — came out today and said that the economy had added 216,000 new jobs, barely beating the Bloomberg consensus, which expects a nearly identical 215,000. 

Meanwhile, Business Insider engaged in a very elaborate piece of analysis and came up with — wait for it — 285,000! That would be, as BI notes, the best monthly jobs report in six years. I like that BI zeroes in on auto sales as a key predictor. February saw sales rise to a 15-million annual pace, more than two million better than 2011. 

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Unemployment: We may have finally turned the corner

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

The national unemployment rate has been falling faster that anyone expected it would. You can debate the numbers. For example, are we currently at 8.3 percent because the so-called "long-term unemployed" have given up and dropped out of the labor force altogether? Maybe. But there's no arguing other data, some of which is starting to look a lot better.

This is from Bloomberg:

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a level matching a four-year low, more evidence the labor market is healing.

Applications for unemployment insurance decreased 2,000 in the week ended Feb. 25 to 351,000, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 355,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls fell, while those getting extended payments also declined.

[...]

The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure, fell to 354,000, also the lowest since March 2008, from 359,500.

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Ron Paul v. Ben Bernanke: Is that a silver dollar in your pocket?

The most entertaining episode from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before the House Financial Services Committee this morning came — Surprise! — when Texas Republican and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul launched into one of his patented long-winded spiels about the evils of the Fed, the senselessness of fiat currencies, and the value of "real" money: silver and gold.

Bernanke took it all in stride. The video above doesn't have reaction shots that are quite as good as this shorter broadcast from ABC, so check them both out. You have to hand it to Bernanke, he seems to enjoy the roastings he gets from Paul, in strange sort of way. And he fires back, ever so gently, at Paul's allegations that we're experiencing 9 percent inflation (according to older pricing measures) when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says it's only around 4. (They've been here before.)

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Where's the inflation? It's Ron Paul versus Ben Bernanke PART II

Ron Paul Continues Iowa Campaign Tour

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LE MARS, IA - DECEMBER 30: Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Le Mars Convention Center on December 30, 2011 in Le Mars, Iowa.

Last week, I wrote about how there's no significant inflation in the U.S. economy and that critics of the Federal Reserve's policies, chiefly Ron Paul, should admit that they were wrong and find something else to complain about. Such as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's inability to address the central bank's other mandate, maximum employment. With an unemployment rate at 8.3 percent, we're far from it.

The response from the commenters was swift, copious — and merciless! I got 120 comments, by far the most ever for a DeBord Report post, and all the one's that I didn't write myself disagreed with everything I had to say. Well, one didn't entirely disagree. This person just said I was as off-the-mark as Kenneth Rogoff and Paul Krugman and shouldn't be blamed.

I'll hasten to say at this point that I'm really fine with with this. I actually like being vigorously attacked, and I think that a good blogger brings the comment stream into the process. And so I'm doing that now (the comments are unedited, by the way).

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