- Payroll Stats Become Even More Implausible
by Jeffrey P. Snider, http://www.alhambrapartners.com/
Since Q1 GDP was revised lower by almost 1% that meant estimates of productivity were going to be even more out of alignment than they were at the first release. Of course, in a less massaged environment productivity might have preserved some sense if there was less rigidity from the BLS on the employment side. In other words, when “output” estimates were reduced (and they were, by more than GDP) it would make sense that everything would be revised downward in a more cohesive process. Instead, output was reduced significantly, by 1.4%, while total hours worked was marked down by all of 0.1%.
As a result, productivity is revised from a nonsensical -1.9% to an even more skeptical -3.1%.
If this was just a one-quarter problem, then it would be easy to dismiss as random variation or expected variance in all these statistics trying to tie together across real economy lags and such. But that is not the case, as productivity, and by extension the estimates for how “expensive” marginal labor is and thus the primary reason businesses hire and fire in the first place, has been seriously “off” for some time. With these latest estimates and revisions, productivity is now -0.7% over the last 5 quarters dating back to last year’s polar vortex. That just doesn’t make any sense in a meaningful context of business operations in the real economy – especially when the BLS is saying that this has been the best run of hiring in decades.