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Friday, November 03, 2006



"Rather like roulette, the payrolls number is more or less random, but within a reasonably well-defined range. The economics profession sets the range for the roulette wheel and the random-number generation techniques of the Bureau of Labor Statistics do the rest."

This is an exagerrating of the facts to suit journalistic license. The payrolls number may be inexact from month to month, but year upon year they indicate trends worth noting.

Once again, it is a matter of sensationalist journalism that MUST respond to data announcement to fit a daily deadline (or even hourly, on the Internet). What must one expect them to say? What is there to say, except announce the number, which is rarely enough to fill a submission of at least 300 words.

It would be sufficient to report either year-to-year based changes to the day or, even, half-year changes. Economic data, whether macro - or micro- is best interpreted, if at all interpreted, as a trend series for public consumption. All other manipulation of the data is a matter of research and, therefore, peer review before publishing.

Most (important) economic conditions take a considerable time to evolve. The problem is that stock markets are very volatile at present and they react (stupidly) to the input of statistical "facts".

One need only look at the daily reporting of almost any European index, between 1400 and 1600 hours daily. What happens in New York invariably affects European indexes. Why the hell should that happen? The capitalisation of European indexes should contain only European components and, on a daily basis, what happens in New York should have no bearing on European indices. But, this is clearly not the case. Emotion prevails over common sense.

It is a case of the tail wagging the tiger, given that the European indices have outpaced American indices over the past three years.

Scott M. Koser, CFA

The assertion that the unemployment number, based on the household survey, is the correct number to follow is my opinion.

The self employed entrepreneur in the USA reflects the marginal gains in employment at the present time. These numbers are not reflected in the establishment survey because we are talking about fairly new enterprises with five or fewer employees. The collapse in the prices of forming a LLC, buying a computer with an office suite and accounting software, and inexpensive telecom services has lead to a cottage industry of the self employed who are 1099 employees of their own firm and not w2 employees of a larger corporation. Yours truly is a member of this unmeasured group.

I have been searching for a private market (read not labor union) economist who has both access to aggregate IRS data and the ability to proof this thesis out. If this trend exists it must be reflected in actual tax returns filed.

Why does it matter? Because labor conditions in the USA are much tighter than the bond market perceives via the establishment survey. If this is indeed correct, the FED could be on the sidelines for a long, long time.

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