On Jobs, the News is Even Better Than We Thought

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By Mark Whitehouse

Friday's employment report contained a significant piece of positive news beyond the 243,000-job headline rise in payrolls: The job market's recovery since hitting bottom in 2010 has been better than previously thought.

In the report, Labor Department economists revised historical payroll estimates to account for new information, largely from unemployment insurance tax records. The result: They now believe nonfarm payrolls have increased by a seasonally adjusted 2,922,000 since the last trough in February 2010. That's 268,000 more jobs than previously thought. Also, average monthly payroll growth in 2011 was about 152,000, compared to a previous estimate of 137,000.

None of this means the U.S. economy is out of the woods. Total payroll employment remains 5.6 million jobs below its previous peak in January 2008, and last year's monthly job growth is just barely enough to start making a dent in the unemployment rate. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the spending cuts agreed in last year's debt-ceiling deal go into effect and the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012, the U.S. unemployment rate will go back up to 9.2 percent in 2013.

In other words, the good news in the employment report doesn't necessarily mean it's time for the government to end measures such as payroll-tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits, or for the Federal Reserve to dismiss the possibility of another round of monetary stimulus.

(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Feb/03/2012 16:42 GMT