Number of the Day: 37,000

November 24, 2010 | Number of The Day

What’s the old adage about statistics and lying? It’s a saying that comes to mind reading yesterday’s dueling reports on state unemployment, released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The statistics are the same but the analysis is very different.

Here’s the good news: New Jersey’s unemployment rate finally seems to be falling from its recessionary high of 10 percent in December 2009 to the current 9.2 percent, which is below the country’s 9.6 percent. On closer inspection, however, it appears New Jersey actually lost 37,000 jobs between October 2009 and October 2010, dropping from 3,827,900 to 3,830,500. That means the unemployment rate dipped because the number of people looking for work or on unemployment dipped — not because of employment expansion.

The BLS merely released the data, but the state issued a report that crowed about the dip in unemployment — without mentioning the year-to-year job numbers. But it did boast of modest job gains from September to October of this year, noting that the state’s employment increased by 2,600 in the past month. That represented a total growth of 4,800 private sector jobs in professional and business services and financial activities, as well as the loss of 1,800 temporary Census workers.

Year to year, 8,100 private sector jobs were lost, while government shed 28,400 jobs. There were gains in some private sectors: Professional and business services picked up 8,700 jobs; finance and insurance, 4,800. The construction industry is suffering, having lost 12,300 jobs.