Surprise! Economists didn’t see it coming. Again

Wall Street is in for another wild ride today, surprised again that people paid to see the economic picture blew it. Again.

Economics, they say, is an inexact science and nobody proves it on a regular basis like economists.

This morning’s monthly jobs report said the U.S. businesses created only 38,000 jobs last month.

The people who fuel the markets expected 162,000 jobs to be created, CNBC reports.

Minutes before the report was released, the Wall St. Journal expected 158,000. Swing and a miss, Wall St. Journal.

That’s not just wrong. That’s Miguel-Sano-trying-to-play-the-outfield wrong.

The unemployment rate dropped, however, as more people gave up looking for work. Only 62.6 percent of people in the country are in the labor force now, today’s report said. That’s the lowest in 40 years.


The number of Americans not in the labor force surged to a record 94.7 million, CNBC said. And for some reason, the experts never saw it coming. And they’re not sure why it’s happening. It could be retiring baby boomers, one theory goes.

Says CNBC:

What job growth there was came primarily from health care, which added 46,000 positions. However, mining lost 10,000 jobs, information-related jobs fell by 34,000 — the consequence of the recently resolved Verizon strike — while manufacturing lost 18,000.

Jobs were skewed toward part-time, which added 139,000 positions. Full-time lost 59,000 jobs.

One of the few bright spots in the report came from wages, which grew 2.5 percent on an annualized basis. The average work week was unchanged at 34.4 hours.

“Not every blip become a bust, but every bust looks like a blip at the beginning,” Wonkblog’s Matt O’Brien writes. “Sometimes the only way to tell the difference is to wait. Just ask the Federal Reserve. It almost certainly won’t raise rates in June like it had hoped to, and may not in July either now that there’s so much uncertainty.”

The economists and business media are picking the numbers apart, predicting what it will mean for the possibility the Fed will boost interest rates. A better analysis might be based on this question: Why do we expect economic analysts to be economic predictors? And why should we believe any of the analysis we’ll hear today?

Related: Myth or Fact? How Some Jobs-Report Analysis Goes Wrong (WSJ)