The 386,000 jobs we didn’t know about

Updated
 
The 386,000 jobs we didn't know about
The 386,000 jobs we didn't know about

When August’s disappointing job totals were released a few weeks ago, it was considered important news. With that in mind, this seems like at least as big a story.

The government’s estimates of job creation are not particularly accurate, a point that is often made and often ignored. On Thursday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided another reminder. The agency said it probably undercounted the extent of job creation between April 2011 and March 2012 by 20 percent.

The agency, which issues a much-discussed monthly estimate, also issues regular revisions of those estimates, which regularly receive much less attention. One of the most important revisions uses state unemployment insurance tax records – records filed by nearly all employers, which include actual counts of the numbers of people they employ – to check the accuracy of a full year of its monthly estimates.

And what did the BLS revision show? That over the last 12 months, the economy added 386,000 jobs that up until now had not been reported. That may not sound like much, but it’s a 20 percent jump over the 1.94 million jobs thought to have been created overall over that same period.

Also note, this is a net total: the private sector created 453,000 additional jobs, while Republican austerity measures forced the public sector to shed an additional 67,000 jobs.

As a political matter, Pat Garofalo notes another salient angle: even if the early 2009 job losses are held against President Obama, he’s now broken into positive territory for his first term. It also means more jobs were created in Obama’s first four years than during George W. Bush’s first four years – and Bush didn’t inherit a global economic catastrophe.

It’s very likely Mitt Romney was looking forward to arguing next week that the economy hasn’t added any new jobs during Obama’s term. The talking point was always ridiculous when considered in context, but now, the talking point is off the table entirely.

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The 386,000 jobs we didn't know about

Updated