At first blush the jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday looked pretty good, catching establishment economists off-guard by about 80,000 new jobs. Instead of the 160,000 new jobs expected in February, the BLS reported 236,000, which pushed down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent. This came on top of a drop in claims for unemployment insurance as well, with the four-week moving average of 348,750 new claims declining to the lowest level since March 2008.
Some saw the numbers as exposing as overwrought claims by President Obama and Fed Chairman Bernanke that the sequester cuts would cost the economy some 750,000 jobs. John Crudele, writing in the New York Post, considered these happy numbers as a “blow to the area below Obama’s gut. It’s hard to rev up fear in people about the job market when they've just heard that things may be getting better.”
Not so fast. Though the administration has deceptively fanned the flames of fear regarding the sequester cuts, it must also be kept in mind that the job numbers now in the news do not tell the whole story.
First of all, reports early in the new year are usually fairly robust. In January and February 2012 the BLS reported nearly 600,000 new jobs, but then the economy stalled, with growth in GDP essentially flat-lining in the last quarter of the year.
According to the household survey, where the BLS asks how many are working in a household, 170,000 new jobs were added in February of this year — despite the addition of an astounding 446,000 part-time jobs. What this means is that some 276,000 full-time jobs were lost in February. A Gallup survey released the day before the Labor Department’s report noted:
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