The Edmond Sun


October 12, 2012

'Unbelievable' is right

EDMOND — “Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can’t debate so change numbers.” — Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Oct. 5, 2012


Unbelievable is the proper word, although it’s not the jobs numbers, reported last Friday, that are unbelievable. What is unbelievable is that someone with Jack Welch’s knowledge and experience would believe (or even insinuate) that the government jobs report was manipulated for political gain.

In reality, the methodology behind the monthly employment situation report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has widespread acceptance among economists across the ideological spectrum. In short, the numbers are as reliable as can reasonably be expected.

This does not mean that the estimates released last Friday are final, as the BLS will regularly revise the numbers in the coming months as more complete data becomes available. Still, those revisions will be driven by statistical reasons, not political ones.

What was lost in all the discussion about the accuracy of the jobs report was that the report wasn’t a very good one. Yes, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent — slightly below the level when President Obama took office. Yet the unemployment rate is arguably the most over-hyped economic statistic because it can decrease even as the economy worsens, and increase as the economy improves.

Furthermore, of the two different surveys reported in the monthly Employment Situation Report, the smallest one — the household survey — is the most volatile. For example, in the last six months the household survey indicates that the monthly change in the number of employed Americans has been -169,000; +422,000; +128,000; -195,000; -119,000; +873,000. It was the +873,000 last month that triggered the surprising drop in the unemployment rate. But, as you can tell from the numbers, the figures for the previous months have been all over.

This is why most economists focus initially on a different statistic from a different survey — a survey of employers — that is much more stable. Over the last six months, the monthly changes in private-sector employment have been +85,000; +116,000; +63,000; +163,000; +97,000; +104,000. In other words: meh.

Of course, August was the 31st consecutive month of private-sector job growth. During this period the economy has added 4.7 million private-sector jobs (not counting the additional 453,000 jobs BLS recently announced it will add to the total in its annual revisions). As a result, in 2011 the economy clocked the largest increase in jobs since the tech-boom of 1999 … and 2012 isn’t far behind.

Still, it wasn’t great. During the last year the U.S. adult population has grown by an average of 141,000 people per month. In the last six months private-sector employment has grown by an average of only 105,000 jobs per month. So, while the economy is growing and jobs are being created, they aren’t being created fast enough. This is a concern.

Of course, the situation could have been a little better. It was more than a year ago that President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act — legislation that according to various economic analyses would have created an additional 1 million jobs. However, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives killed it. We know how to solve the unemployment problem. And we know that Congress won’t do it.

Outrage is appropriate. But unlike with Jack Welch’s irrational rebuke of BLS civil servants, the deserving target of our outrage should be Congress. After all, it was Congress who could have acted to boost the economy. It was Congress who could have stepped in to help hardworking taxpayers and protect America’s families. And it was Congress that said “no.”


MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

Text Only
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results