The jobless rate in L.A. County was 6.7 percent in May, up sharply from the revised 5.9 percent level in April – and, it would be fair to say, quite a bit higher than what had been expected (month-to-month increases of 0.8 percent are unusually large). The statewide rate was 6.8 percent, up from 6.2 percent in April. The U.S. unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, a 0.5 percent bump. Now it should be noted that the jobless figures can be a little funky this time of year for various seasonal reasons. And economists like UCLA’s Ed Leamer are clearly looking for some revisions. But for now, the number is the number. Here’s how Leamer described the U.S. jobless rate in the just-out Anderson Forecast:
That May increase in the unemployment rate to 5.5 from 5.0 has shocked Wall Street and me too. That 5.5 is the only number I know that is clearly in the recession range. And just when I was about ready to take a victory lap, carrying my no-recession banner! Now we have to spend valuable time decoding the message in that datum, and try to repair the damage this number has done to our no-recession idea, if we can.
What is really strange about this figure is that the March, April and May points lie along a straight line. It’s as if the government statisticians were trying to torment me, so they decided to double reverse the improvements that had occurred from March to April. I cannot for the life of me fi gure out what feature of the data collection or the seasonal adjustment would lead to this outcome, but it is sure strange.
A separate payroll survey shows a decline of 3,200 jobs in L.A. County last month. Construction and manufacturing took big hits, both from April and May 2007. But the entertainment sector picked up 2,100 jobs from April. Here’s the report.