Poof: Another 800,000 jobs disappear

chart_phantom_jobs.top.gifSince April 2008, the Labor Department estimated that business openings created thousands of more jobs than were lost from employers closing in every month but one. But those gains may end up being a mirage.By Chris Isidore, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- As bad as the government's jobs readings numbers have been during the Great Recession, we'll soon find out the real situation likely was worse.

Much worse.

301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


nginx

Job losses during the recession may have been underestimated by close to a million jobs. So instead of employers cutting just over 7 million jobs from their payrolls since the economic downturn began in December 2007, it's expected that the Labor Department's new estimate will be a loss of 8 million jobs.

"It's an enormous understatement of the severity of the crisis," said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a union-supported think tank. "It confirms that things were actually worse on the ground than what the reports suggested."

The new reading will come when the economists at the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics release their annual revision of U.S. payrolls from April 2008 through March of 2009 Friday, using data that wasn't available as the monthly readings were being estimated and reported.

Typically the revision results in only a slight change in the previous estimate -- about 0.1% to 0.2% of the total number of jobs. But there was nothing typical about the twelve month stretch that ended last March.

That period included the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the seizing up of financial markets and the U.S. economy toppling close to the brink of another depression.

The government's current readings show that 4.8 million jobs were lost in those twelve months, more than twice the jobs lost during any comparable April-March period going back to 1939, when the numbers first started to be compiled.

But the department has already given a preliminary look at this Friday's revision, and it says it believes it will show 824,000 fewer workers on payrolls than the current estimates. That would be the biggest downward revision in the 30 years for which comparisons of those adjustments is possible.

"There's certainly a disconnect between economists like myself who say the recession ended in May or June and the person on the street who says the recession hasn't ended," said John Canally, economist LPL Financial. "This report is only going to widen that gap."

Canally said the big revision is one reason that it's difficult to estimate what Friday's report will show about the labor market in January, or how investors will react to the report.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com are forecasting a net gain of 13,000 jobs in January, following a loss of 85,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 10%.

Economists say it shouldn't be a surprise that there is such a big revision this time, given the severity of the economic downturn.

"Most of the time it's reasonably accurate. But when there are very sharp changes in the economy, they tend to miss and it becomes a big problem," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The problem is that BLS models appear to have grossly overestimated the number of new businesses that opened during the recession.

The payroll number is created through a monthly survey of employers, but that survey misses employers who start a business during the course of the year, as well as those who have gone out of business.

So every month BLS uses what is known as a birth-death adjustment to estimate the number of jobs created or lost from that turnover in business.

During the April 2008-March 2009 period, that adjustment added jobs to the overall payroll number in 11 of the 12 months, resulting in a net gain of 717,000 jobs.

"When the numbers were coming out, the idea that we had a significant number of businesses being created didn't make sense," said Baker.

There is a concern that this problem didn't end in March of 2009. In fact, the adjustment added even more jobs -- 990,000 -- in the nine months reported since then.

So another big revision in the payroll numbers could be looming a year from now. That means this Friday's report should give pause to anyone who is depending on the official numbers to signal real improvement in the economy.

"The numbers might be showing some pick-up in hiring, but I haven't seen much evidence of it," said Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,805.41 127.51 0.76%
Nasdaq 4,483.72 30.92 0.69%
S&P 500 1,964.58 13.76 0.71%
Treasuries 2.27 -0.00 -0.09%
Data as of 1:52pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 13.78 -0.62 -4.31%
Microsoft Corp 46.13 1.11 2.47%
Apple Inc 105.22 0.39 0.37%
Bank of America Corp... 16.72 0.12 0.72%
Yahoo! Inc 43.50 0.90 2.11%
Data as of Oct 24

Sections

New York headlines took a straight forward and direct approach with NYC's Ebola news. More

The midterm elections are around the corner, and the economy remains a top concern. With unemployment down and inflation low, why do people still feel the economy stinks? More

Shares of Facebook recently topped $80. They've more than quadrupled from their post-IPO lows of two years ago. Can Mark Zuckerberg keep the momentum in mobile going? More

Host a furniture market. Here's how small town High Point, N.C. rakes in this much money -- twice a year. More

If you're looking to fly this holiday season, the clock's ticking to get the best prices. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.