I hope I’m not boring you with my need to change the way the Austin American-Statesman describes a recent report from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC 3/4/10). I wrote about this a few days ago, but a new article appeared in the Statesman this morning:
The story includes this paragraph: “Revised data from the Texas Workforce Commission now show that the Austin metro area was losing jobs from the very beginning of 2009, and that the job losses were deeper than experts thought.”
As I have discussed before, there is a difference between comparing employment from month to month, and comparing to the same month in a previous year. I completely understand that year-over-year comparisons are useful in filtering out seasonal effects on the data, but to say that Austin area employment in January 2010 was down compared to January 2009 obscures the fact that the area actually gained jobs in January 2010.
Of course, each of us has our own perception of the employment market based on our own and our friends’ circumstances — and based on what we read and hear in the news. That’s why I keep coming back to this — because
negative distortions create negative perceptions, and the resulting attitudes can actually make the “problem” worse. So … here’s another look at a spreadsheet I included in my last post on this subject:
This version of the spreadsheet includes Month-to-Month and Year-to-Year comparison columns. It does show that each month in 2009 was down compared to the same month in 2008. That agrees with the Statesman article. As I look at the data, though, it does not say that “the Austin metro area was losing jobs from the very beginning of 2009.”
What I see in that data is that the Austin metro area gained jobs on a month-to-month basis for 8 of the 12 months from February 2009 through January 2010! Isn’t that different?
For the visually-oriented among us, here is a better view of this data:
It is absolutely true that we fell off a cliff in January 2009, but there is no mistaking the upward trend from then to now.
January 2010 employment in Austin was well above the average and median jobs numbers for the past five years, and just 2% below the October 2008 peak. In addition, note the magnitude of the employment losses in three of the four previous Januaries.
I won’t argue that down is good. It’s not. But isn’t this a very different view of the same facts discussed in the Statesman. Don’t you feel better about our propsects than you did after reading the newspaper this morning?