Unemployment by the numbers: ow does the Bureau of Labor & Statistics determine the rate?

2:47 PM, Oct 5, 2012   |    comments
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Bureau of Labor Statistics

NBC - The number of people who found jobs in September was historic.

"We had an increase of 873,000 jobs just in the month of September," notes CNBC's Hampton Pearson. "That's the biggest one month jump in 30 years."

The way professionals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics arrived at that figure is also entrenched in history.

"They do the best calculations, using the best measurements and tools," says Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "We've been using them for the past 70 years. We haven't changed anything."

Every month those professionals are walled off, even from each other, to pore over surveys conducted by the Census Bureau targeting 60,000 households and 140,000 businesses.

The independently calculated numbers are then compiled.

"They're all coming with very different set of numbers and as I understand it, that's one reason they do it is to maintain the integrity of the process," says Wells Fargo chief economist John Silvia.

As for the uptick in these newest numbers, analysts say there's a logical explanation.

"The BLS is telling us that a lot of those jobs, those new jobs, were part time jobs," Pearson explains.

"The unemployment rate simply came down because there was an unusual number of part time workers," agrees Silvia.

The next unemployment report might also stir controversy.

It comes out the Friday before Election Day.


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