The Biggest Jobs “Miss” Ever

Our bottomless disfaith in experts is validated yet again…

These wiseacres informed us April would turn in over one million fresh jobs. How many fresh jobs did April turn in?

266,000 — wrong by a factor approaching four — the miss of all misses.

“This is a big miss that changes how we think about the recovery,” moans University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers.

Perhaps it does.

Economist Nick Bunker concedes Friday’s report “might be one of the most disappointing jobs numbers of all time.”

Of all time! And so he scratches and scratches his head:

All the signs from all the other data that we have is that demand for workers is quite strong, and the report [Friday], while it doesn’t point in the direction of, say, massive labor shortages, it suggests that there is some hesitancy out there on behalf of workers to take out some jobs, be it because of fear of the virus, child care constraints, or concerns about the instability of jobs.

Just so. But were these economists — experts all — unaware of these confounding variables?

An authentic expert might have mixed them into his mathematics.

Why Have Experts?

Why have experts at all?

Would you trust the weatherman who had forecast a roasting 100 degrees… when the next day’s temperature came in at an arctic 26?

Would you trust the stockjobber who had insisted stock x would scale $100 when stock x plunged to $26?

Why then should you trust an economics mob who had forecast the economy would add over one million April jobs… when the economy added only 266,000 April jobs?

Another question: Where is its amour propre, its self-respect as a professional body?

Decent men might scurry off… rats down a storm drain… gushing apologies and pledging to stay forever away.

But these men will return next month with May’s crystal-gazings…

As they will in June, July, August, September, October, November, December, February, March — and April again.

Might these botches occasionally capture a genuine glimpse? They may, yes. But we would remind you:

The fritzed cuckoo clock gives accurate time every twelve hours. It is fritzed nonetheless.

The Luxury of Ignorance

Yet we sympathize — deeply — with these professional men.

They are experts, men of dignity, secular clergymen. The world hangs upon their educated guesswork.

And so they approach their prognostications with all the weight afforded somber men. They realize they must suck answers out of their thumbs… however false.

The Daily Reckoning carries no such burden upon its shoulders.

We enjoy the luxury of… ignorance.

We do not claim to know next month’s unemployment rate. And who would listen to us if we did?

As well consult a bowling champion, an acrobat, a justice of the Supreme Court. Indeed — as well consult an economist.

Nor do we pretend to know this year’s GDP… or how the Dow Jones will trade on December 11, 2021… or on May 11, 2021.

Mr. Milton Friedman once claimed he could “give you a number or a date, but not both.”

But your editor is rather more modest — he can give you neither.

We are far more adept in raising questions than answering questions.

We are gadflies… nose-pullers… chain-yankers… crashers of parties.

If we find the Emperor stark naked, we yell about it. We heave stink bombs into polite circles. We put out our tongues at consensus.

The Damndest of All Damnable Lies

The unemployment rate is but a statistic. And statistics are the damndest of all damnable lies.

You have a nation divided equally between 11-foot giants and three-foot midgets.

Does the average citizen stand seven feet in height?

Half the population is black, half the population is white. Is the average citizen… gray?

Half are male, half are female. Is the average citizen a hermaphrodite?

Or consider…

A man, age 25, unknowingly hosts the coronavirus. A steamroller drives over him. Was it the virus that made a hotcake of him — or the roller?

The medical statistics might claim it was the virus. We exaggerate only modestly.

Dr. Annie Bukacek is a practicing physician. From whom:

The Centers for Disease Control… still states that mortality, quote unquote, data includes both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.  That’s from their website.

Translation? The CDC counts both true COVID-19 cases and speculative guesses of COVID-19 the same. They call it death by COVID-19. They automatically overestimate the real death numbers, by their own admission.

Here is our tort against statistics: As we have argued before… statistics are the bureaucrat’s fiercest weapon…

The Government’s Goons

For it is the government statistician who collects, sorts, analyzes, worries, tortures and weaponizes economic data.

The mangled data is then conscripted into the service of government policy x… or government policy y.

That is, the statistician is the government’s roughneck, its henchman its goon. As we have also written before:

Without his figures the government is a plodding doofus. It is a blinded, fumbling cyclops speared through its one and only eye.

But this graspless, senseless, sightless beast… in fact… presents a reduced menace.

More Statistics, Less Liberty

Explains the late economist Murray Rothbard:

Certainly, only by statistics, can the federal government make even a fitful attempt to plan, regulate, control or reform various industries — or impose central planning… on the entire economic system. If the government received no railroad statistics, for example, how in the world could it even start to regulate railroad rates, finances and other affairs? How could the government impose price controls if it didn’t even know what goods have been sold on the market, and what prices were prevailing?

Indeed… in the absence of labor statistics, how would the government know when to “stimulate” the economy?

And how would its central bank plot the famously false Phillips curve?

Statistics form the very “eyes and ears” of government. Again, Mr. Rothbard:

Statistics… are the eyes and ears of the interventionists: of the intellectual reformer, the politician and the government bureaucrat. Cut off those eyes and ears, destroy those crucial guidelines to knowledge and the whole threat of government intervention is almost completely eliminated.

That is, without statistics the government could not “govern” us as it would.

Government tracks statistics as the train robber tracks railroad schedules… and for much the same purpose.

Goodbye to the Bill of Rights

We trust its statistics no further than we trust a dog with our dinner or a politician with our vote.

And the fellow who manufactures them is often a scoundrel, a traitor to truth, a menace to American peace and happiness.

He would tell you twice two is five — if his bosses wished you to believe twice two is five.

“The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head,” said the irreplaceable Mencken, adding:

“Put it in his hand and it’s good-bye to the Bill of Rights.”

Statistics show him where to aim.

Yet we conclude in high spirits. We are pleased to report that the threat is exaggerated vastly.

The Bill of Rights faces no bureaucratic threat in this year 2021. None, that is, with the mere exceptions of:

Its First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth — and Tenth — Amendments.


Brian Maher

Brian Maher
Managing Editor, The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning