Making Sense of the Latest U.S. Employment Report

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US Unemployment

U.S. Unemployment

The U.S. government puts out various reports having to do with employment and the state of the economy. These reports can help Americans make sense of how the U.S. economy is doing. One report worth watching is the Employment Situation Summary, which is released monthly. An updated version of the report can always be found here. Before getting into the details of the latest report, here’s why it’s important:

Employment report basics

The report is released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That agency is in charge of reporting what types of jobs people are getting. They also report on unemployment. The report has some notes and a lot of statistics which will be explained next.

Why does the media focus on the unemployment report?

If you tune in to a business channel, you’ll hear a lot of talk about the latest employment report. The media forms an opinion about the report that may move the stock market. A strong report can cause the stock market to increase. The opposite is true for a bad report. Therefore, the monthly report is usually covered quite a bit in the news.

Why are statistics “seasonally adjusted?”

When you’re listening to an update on the report, you’ll often hear of “seasonally adjusted” data. The reason employment figures are adjusted is that during different seasons, certain things happen which could distort the data. During summers, many people stop working and collect unemployment if they work in seasonal jobs. An example is school bus drivers. However, more houses are being built in spring and summer, so those professions see an increase. Farming jobs see increases in spring and summer as well. If the reports weren’t adjusted, comparing a report to the prior month might look very bad. By adjusting, they’re trying to fix these known issues.

What is this month’s report telling us?

This latest report tells a story of a slowly improving economy. Every month over the past year has either seen unemployment stay flat or improve. This improvement has helped both men and women. Teenagers are also seeing improvements. These are the main figures reported in the table. The types of jobs being added were mainly from retail. Food and beverage stores also saw gains.

What to do with the report

It’s good to pay attention to the report, because it tells you how well the country is doing in terms of employment. But it’s probably not a good idea to base important decisions on the report alone. Rather, it should be one of many factors you consider when making decisions about your investments or your employment options.

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Darwin is an engineer and MBA who takes an "evolutionary" approach to finance, writing about adapting to evolving financial management, tax, investing and savings opportunities. Making more money and saving more money is an adaptive process - join the evolution! He blogs at Darwin's Money and ETF Base. Follow him on Twitter @ Everyday Finance.

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