More than half a million Americans didn’t get the jobs the government thought they did in 2018 and early this year.
That’s the verdict of a major revision of the Labor Department’s job-creation numbers — the largest such correction since the Great Recession a decade ago.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the U.S. had 501,000 fewer non-farm jobs in March 2019 than it previously reported.
Such revisions — down or up — are standard procedures for the agency, but the size of this change is unusual.
“The newly revised figures indicate the economy didn’t get a huge boost last year from President Trump’s tax cuts and higher federal spending,” reports MarketWatch. “They also signal the economy is a bit weaker than previously believed and could give the Federal Reserve even greater reason to cut interest rates in September.”
The revision “was the largest in recent years, but it didn’t come as a total surprise,” reports the New York Times. “Many economists had expected job growth to level off in 2018 as the unemployment rate fell and employers struggled to find workers.”
Hardest hit by the new figures were retailing, with nearly 150,000 fewer jobs than previously reported, and the leisure and hospitality sector (restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, etc.), down by 175,000. But some sectors — government, financial services, transportation — actually hired more workers than the BLS had thought.
The employment report is compiled from a BLS survey of nearly 700,000 work sites, but the agency updates its numbers after checking its results against employers’ tax records and state unemployment insurance figures. There will be another update, and probably a further revision, next February.