Friday, March 4, 2011

Taking a Stab at the NFP Number

There's about an hour to go before the release of the BLS Non-Farm Payroll data for February, and, since listening to ex-chairman Greenspan dodder on CNBC is causing severe intellectual pain and suffering, I've decided to take a stab at what the number will be.

With government work contracting generally over the past 3-6 months, we're likely looking at a reduction in public sector jobs of somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000. That implies that to reach the number some have projected, 175-200,000, the private sector would have to had created upwards of 200,000 jobs, and that seems highly unlikely.

My best guess - and it's nothing more than a guess because I'm not taking into account the arcane and muddy BLS birth-death models and other smoothing mechanisms they employ - is that the private sector created no more than a net 160,000 new jobs, and even that might be a stretch.

Let's put the number at +135,000, below consensus estimates, but, considering how bad January was, this number could - and maybe should - be considered a vast improvement.

Not that anybody should be happy with this number, since the amount of stimulus by government and the Fed has been enormous and we should, at this point in the "recovery," be creating 300-350,000 net new jobs, anything above 125,000 should be almost satisfactory, or, a "D" for underachievement for the Fed.

So, that's it: +135,000. I can live with that, and, even if I'm wrong, I'll be no further off than the majority of the experts out there.

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