Last Year’s Job Numbers Revised Downward

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is issuing new figures that lowers the number of jobs employers added to payrolls last year. During the 12-month period that ran from April, 2018 through March of this year, employers added 501,000 fewer jobs than first estimated. The government initially estimated the economy added 2.5 million jobs during those 12 months, or about 223,000 jobs on average. The updated data lowers the monthly increase to about 181,000.

The Labor Department publishes monthly employment statistics, but checks and revises the estimates once a year based on data from state unemployment tax records. This is a preliminary revision. A final revision for this 12-month period is due to be released in February.

About two-thirds of the downward revisions came from just two sectors: the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors. The battered retail sector cut far more jobs than the previous estimate. The government previously estimated that retailers cut 32,500 jobs in the period, but now puts that loss at nearly 180,000 jobs. The leisure and hospitality industry was initially believed to have added 434,000 jobs, but that has been revised to about 260,000 jobs added.

Other industries also reported drops in employment. Business and professional services, which includes accountants and lawyers along with waste management and temporary workers, added 163,000 fewer jobs than initially thought. Manufacturing, construction, and mining and logging also lowered their estimates for the period.

Some sectors had their numbers revised upwards for the period. Transportation and warehousing added about 80,000 more jobs than previous estimates. Finance and information services increased by 53,000 additional jobs. Employers in various levels of government at the local, state and federal level added 13,000 more jobs than previously reported.

This is the biggest revision in jobs totals since 2009, but the new figures don’t suggest the job market is weak. The economy needs to show a monthly gain of 170,000 jobs to sustain the current unemployment level, which is currently near a 50-year low. Right now, there are more job openings than there are unemployed people looking for a job, but the new numbers suggest that job growth is slowing.

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