Thursday, March 22, 2012

Disposing of the garbage from the King Report and Art Cashin

- by New Deal democrat

I dislike cherry-picking data. It almost always means that the writer started with a conclusion and reasoned backward to find support.

There is some particularly egregious cherry-picked garbage that started with the King Report; namely, that December 2011 through February 2012 non-seasonally adjusted data showed that we have lost 1.8 million jobs. Therefore, presumably, the jobs picture is actually quite bleak. This then got repeated by Art Cashin on CNBC.

Our former co-blogger Invictus eviscerated this claim over at Barry Ritholtz' Big Picture. For the record, beginning with December 2000, here is the December through February change in the non-seasonally adjusted payrolls survey:

2001 -2212
2002 -2402
2003 -2273
2004 -2050
2005 -1880
2006 -1728
2007 -2105
2008 -2519
2009 -3939
2010 -2432
2011 -2037
2012 -1801

Note that once we strip out the seasonal adjustments, the last two months of job data have been the best bar once in the last 12 years.

Apparently undeterred, when called on it, instead of just admitting he goofed (nobody's perfect after all), Cashin doubled down, claiming that he was simply following Lakshman Achuthan's lead in not accepting seasonal adjustments since the recession and looking at YoY data.

In the first place, Achuthan's rejoinder to my critism of ECRI's recent recession call defense - that recent seasonal adjustments following the 2008 recession may be overstating wintertime growth - besides being cherry-picking itself, since ECRI apparently has not historically primarily relied on this mode of measurement, overstates the conclusion that should be drawn. If we're not sure we can trust seasonal adjustments, and they conflict with YoY data, that does NOT mean we should accept the YoY data as the more reliable picture of the present condition. It means that WE DON'T KNOW which way of looking at the data is more accurate in depicting the present condition.

But let's accept Achuthan's criticism, and accept YoY nonfarm payrolls each February since 2000 as presenting the truer picture. Here's the result, again derived directly from the UN-seasonally adjusted data:

2001 1670
2002 -2028
2003 -409
2004 316
2005 2219
2006 2692
2007 1754
2008 715
2009 -5042
2010 -3568
2011 1402
2012 2016

On a YoY basis, the last 12 months have seen the 3rd best job growth in the last 12 years.

There is not a shred of credibility in the claim made by the King Report, the original Cashin claim, or the revised Cashin claim. Rather than repeating the claims at other business sites, it's time to throw out the garbage.