Surprise! There Are 386,000 More Jobs Than We Thought

Sep 27, 2012

We thought the U.S. economy added just under 2 million jobs between March, 2011 and March, 2012. Turns out, the actual number was more like 2.4 million — a big difference!

This means, of course, that the jobs picture over the year was not quite as bleak as we thought. On a more meta level, it's also an important reminder that the monthly jobs number, which is pounced on the minute it comes out and parsed with analytical fury, is actually just a rough estimate that maybe doesn't deserve all that hyperactive analysis.

The latest monthly jobs report was a disappointment, we were told, because the economy added only 96,000 jobs in August. That was far fewer than the 120,000 economists had predicted.

In fact, though, the true number of jobs the added that month might well have been more than 120,000 (or, for that matter, fewer than 65,000). The jobs number is based on a survey, which, like any survey, has a margin of error.

A few times a year, the government updates the jobs numbers using data from state unemployment offices, which is much more accurate than the national monthly jobs survey (but takes longer to collect). That's the set of numbers that was released today. In the year through March, according to the latest update, the economy added 386,000 more jobs than earlier surveys suggested.

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