I was standing near the front of a long line waiting to be called for my turn. Two clerks out of about 10 were helping only business customers, and one, whose station was open, began calling the names of various companies.
No one responded.
Then, he spotted someone just behind me. "Bob, I've worked with you a number of times. Come on up."
Bob was a tall, 50-ish man dressed with Man Men formality. His nose and eyes were red and he was more than slightly drunk. He was complaining about the taxes he had to pay and even more about the paperwork involved in filing.
I saw three actual checks; they were all for nominal amounts.
A window opened for me, and the first question I was asked was, "Do we have your travel agency on file?"
If it's not apparent by now, this is a slice from last night's dreams. (Some people dream about sex, and I have nightmares about the economy. That's what I get for reading James Howard Kunstler before bed!)
I got up and found this link (h/t Hal Davis) to a financial blogger's complaint that job losses during the recent downturn had been underestimated because the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a flawed model to estimate the jobs impact created by the birth and death of companies.
Dead companies don't do a very good job completing monthly paperwork. It can take awhile for evidence of their demise to sift through bankruptcy filings, unemployment claims, etc.
New "companies" often get created by people who are cut loose from their jobs. These one- or two-person companies don't immediately show up on the federal bureaucratic radar. And, of course, even fewer of them actually feature what we like to think of as "jobs" — regular work activities that bring in revenue and produce a regular paycheck.
The monthly job change numbers for major industries have to be adjusted for these lags based on a statistical model (see the link for the numbers). But when an fierce economic cycle is accompanied by radical restructuring of industries, those old jobs don't necessarily pop up again. Ever.
So, yes, whether you look at the current carnage through a model or through common sense, job estimates should be taken with a jigger of salt.
Just ask the former journalists, mortgage brokers, construction framers, hospital workers, airline personnel, auto workers, yellow pages salesmen and travel agents about their new jobs.
[After I wrote this, I saw Hal had sent me another piece by the same blogger that spells out in gory and depressing detail the longer-term employment picture I've alluded to here.]