California’s Skewed Jobless Claims

by Gerri Willis

Details matter.


Ask any CEO worth his or her salt. When it comes to deciding whether to invest or hire, you need data. You need information, and lots of it.


It helps if the data is reliable and absolutely accurate. That is exactly what I fear we are not getting these days from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Last month’s jobs report raised eyebrows when the jobs rate plummeted to 7.8%. The report revealed a surprising increase of 873,000 jobs; the biggest increase in 30 years.


That last number came from a Bureau of Labor statistics phone survey, rather than the more reliable establishment survey.


And of course that fueled speculation even further.


Let’s fast forward to two weeks ago. California reported first time claims of just 44,984; an unusually low number. The number was so low that it dragged down the overall national figure to the lowest level in 4 years. 


Our very own Peter Barnes dug into these questionable numbers and found California had held back claims to make the data look better than it was. The state balked at our reporting and asked for a retraction. We didn’t give it.


Today, with the reporting of first time filings for the week ending October 20th, we find that in fact, California has a sudden jump in claims. A 60% jump in first time claims to 71,919. This is getting more curious by the minute.   


Now we find some states, including California, are on a different quarterly data reporting schedule than others. Unemployment claims rise at the beginning of quarters and fall at the end routinely; so last week’s numbers were lower because they came at the end of the quarter.


That’s what experts would like you to believe.


Here’s what I say. You can’t run a $15 trillion economy with bad information. The people who take the risk, start a company, hire people, and make goods or sell services, require that the government information be informative.


You don’t like the high jobless rate and neither do I. Don’t blame the private sector because the numbers aren’t adding up. If they take the risk and lose, it’s their money that will be lost.