Barron’s: 3 out of 4 weeks in Abelson’s Column

I have long used this blog as an archive of my own writing, media appearances and quotes. If you click the Media category, you will see the long archive, going back to 2003. (This is different from the Financial Press category , which looks at the Media itself). 

As another example of "Where did all the Bears Go?," this was my 3rd appearance in Alan Abelson’s column in 4 weeks. (And it was a little over one year ago that I was wondering if I would ever grace his column)   


"Always more than happy to
lift a glass to an economic boom, however stealth it may have been,
what gives us just a wee bit of pause is the nagging, heretical notion
that maybe the problem is not with the boom’s visibility, but the data
that provide the basis for its belated discovery. Maybe, in short, the
boom uncovered by the diligent men and women who man (and woman) the
Bureau of Labor Statistics is itself simply a miscalculation.

That possibility begins to seem not quite so
outlandish when you peer at the text of the bureau’s September
employment report. More specifically, run your orbs over that part of
the "Explanatory Note" that deals with "reliability of the estimates"
on page 8. (We’re indebted to several keen-eyed Street scholars,
including Barry Ritholtz and, inevitably, Stephanie Pomboy, for
supplying chapter and verse on the somewhat startling material in their
recent commentaries.) If, by some remote chance, you don’t have the
document handy, here’s the relevant passage:

"Statistics based on the household and
establishment surveys are subject to both sampling and nonsampling
error…the confidence interval [range] for the monthly change in total
employment is on the order of plus or minus 430,000. Suppose this
estimate of total employment increased by 100,000 from one month to the
next. The 90-percent confidence interval on the monthly change would
range from -330,000 to 530,000 (100,000 +/- 430,000). The figures do
not mean that the sample results are off by these magnitudes, but
rather that there is about a 90-percent chance that the ‘true’
over-the-month change lies within this interval. Since this range
includes values of less than zero, we could not say with confidence
that employment has increased."


Parvenu Predators
Barron’s October 16, 2006

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