NFP: Birth/Death Adjustments

Thursday, December 06, 2007 | 06:09 AM

One of the things we have harped on for quite a long time here at The Big Picture is the flawed BLS Birth Death Model (BDM).

Since 2003, the B/D adjustment has been part and parcel to BLS' Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, the official measure of US employment.

In brief, the Birth Death adjustment imagines (hypothesizes) how many jobs were created by companies too new and/or too small to participate or be found by CES. The model attempts to create what is perceived as a BLS error at the start of any recovery, when many new jobs are created but missed by BLS.

But in fixing one problem, they created another: At the other end of the cycle -- where we are today -- the B/D adjustment potentially will hypothesize lots of phantom job creation. That explains the stability in construction and finance jobs in the monthly data. (See Bloomberg's Why Haven't Home Construction Jobs Disappeared)

I suspect the misguided attempt to reproduce this modeling error helps explain yesterday's baffling ADP data.

Ray Stone of Stone & McCarthy Research Associates notes what is the most serious defect of the BDM: "At the same time we recognized the limitations of the BDM. The most serious limitation of the BDM is that it is a time-series model, and as such, does not pick up turning points or inflection points."

And that is very likely where we are today.

To give you a better idea of how badly the B/D is currently skewing the data, consider these charts below (via Econbrowser). Looking at the changes of the past 3 years, its apparent that the B/D model went from being a modest portion of the CES data to being the increasingly dominant source of reported new jobs over the past 12 months:

chart courtesy of Econbrowser

Indeed, the actual newly created jobs that are measured -- and remember, it is a supposed to be a survey measure of new jobs, not a hypothetical model --  has dropped radically. 

As the chart below shows, the measured portion of CES was near 70% in 2005-06. Now, it has become so increasingly dominated by the hypothesized B/D adjustment, that a mere 20% of the NFP data is truly a measure of the 400,000 participating firms.   

chart courtesy of Econbrowser

In October 2007, the BLS data on job creation has ballooned up to 80% imagined, and a mere 20% measured. That is not a formula for accuracy or precision.

This suggests several important things to us about the BLS NFP data:

• It has moved from a model highly reliant on measurement to a model highly reliant on more modeling;

• The amount of job overstatement has gone from moderate to very strong;

• If our analysis is correct, than Economic growth is much weaker than reported; 

This is consistent with what we have seen from various sentiment surveys. More robust job creation would moderate the general malaise that seems show up in the University of Michigan's Consumer Survey Center and the Conference Board survey of consumer attitudes on present economic conditions.


I'll have more later this week on exactly how much I can deduce the BLS B/D has corrupted the data, and what a more accurate amount of job creation actually might be.



Current Employment Statistics (CES)   
U.S. Department of Labor   
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Trusting the birth/death model
James Hamilton
Econbrowser, November 16, 2007 08:17 AM

Why Haven't Home Construction Jobs Disappeared
John M. Berry
Bloomberg, July 9 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007 | 06:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack (3) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» BLS Hypothetical Job Growth is 2500% of Total!! from A Dash of Insight
The attention-getting headline for today's article is true, but misleading. It parallels the monthly assault on the BLS Birth/Death model from Barry Ritholtz and others. In the most recent article, Barry incorrectly writes that the BLS has substituted ... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 6, 2007 1:09:45 PM

» Brief Notes from Below The Crowd
It's been a busy few months. I've been dating, working and considering new career options. In between I've been writing very little. The Casey Saga came back and then went away again, as did fellow blogger Aspeth. I switched bars... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 7, 2007 9:30:00 PM

» More NFP: Worse than Reported from The Big Picture
This weekend, we noted that in terms of job creation, the 2002-07 post-recession recovery was the very worst in the post-WWII era. This was in response to the pundit commentary that job losses aren't nearly as bad today as the 2001 mild consumer-led re... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 7, 2008 10:12:31 AM



I’m always going into pawn shops to look for old stereo equipment. About 2 weeks ago I was in one of the larger shops when 4 truck loads of illegal immigrants pulled up loaded with construction equipment; table saws; cement mixers, etc, etc.

They came inside and pawned the whole lot… Looked to me like they were headed home….

My wife is also an RN at the local county Health Department. She also tells me that they don’t have as many immigrants coming in for service anymore….

Construction work is BUST in Panama City Florida!

Posted by: Vernon Bush | Dec 6, 2007 7:36:08 AM

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