Beware Upcoming Revisions; Show Me The Data.


Eleven months ago, when the BLS printed the monthly jobs numbers for January 2012, a tremendous disservice was done to consumers of economic information on the internet. Whether it was done deliberately or out of ignorance, I cannot say. But it went viral – including being picked up by the MSM – despite being 100 percent inaccurate.

The post was here, and included this commentary (bolds in original):

“…it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million. No, that’s not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month!”

That was not remotely close to being the case. Regardless, it bounced around the internet, television, and radio like a pinball and was likely even believed by many. BR responded almost immediately (No Rick Santelli and Zero Hedge, One Million People Did Not Drop Out of the Labor Force Last Month). I corrected the record (as did many others) here, though the original source – to their discredit – never did. This is one reason I’ve always maintained that the good thing about the internet is that it gives everyone a platform. And the bad thing about the internet is that it gives everyone a platform. But such is life.

Why bring this up now? Because the recent (Jan 4, 2013) NFP release contained the following note, which looks very familiar (bolds mine):

Upcoming Changes to the Household Survey
Effective with the release of The Employment Situation for January 2013, scheduled for February 1, 2013, new population controls will be used in the monthly household survey estimation process. These new controls reflect the annual updating of intercensal population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Historical data will not be revised to incorporate the new controls; consequently, household survey data for January 2013 will not be directly comparable with that for December 2012 or earlier periods. A table showing the effects of the new controls on the major labor force series will be included in the January 2013 release.

Now, I’ve got no insight into what next month’s release will look like. But I would like get in front of the possibility that an attempt might again be made (either deliberately or out of ignorance) to deceive people by spinning the numbers in ways that are simply unacceptable.

So, speaking of data use and abuse, I’ve been meaning to compile a list of sources that I’ve amassed over the years. Since many folks seem to have taken a liking to rolling their own, no reason not to share the wealth of data that’s out there.

The following are in no particular order, except for FRED, which is the reigning Mac Daddy of research. I’d say 90 percent or more of numbers I use come from one or more of these sites.

FRED – Enough said.








StatAb (Sadly, being discontinued after 133 years.)

Population Reference Bureau


States Perform

Federal Reserve

Standard and Poors

Chicago Fed

CIA Factbook


Ministry of Finance Japan


World Top Incomes Database


On occasion, some of the other regional Fed bank websites, but not often.

If it’s not in one of the databases above, you’re making it up.

Enjoy. And feel free to drop what I may have missed in comments.

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