Saturday, August 18, 2012

JOBS | Suffolk County (Postscript Feb. 3, 2016)

August 18, 2012–Rep. Tim Bishop's challenger has sent out a glossy flyer repeating in bold face the canard that "Long Island has lost more than 30,000 jobs since Tim Bishop became the Congressman". This is weaker than saying he "chased away" the jobs. But it is still an error and unfair. It remains on Mr. Altschuler's website on August 18. (Postscript Feb. 3, 2016: It has since been removed.)

On August 6 I sent a second letter to the East Hampton Star noting the continued error. The letter was published on August 16.

Five Pinocchios

Springs, August 6, 2012

To The Star: On June 28, I wrote protesting the economic data coming from the Altschuler campaign, which said that Congressman Bishop has “chased away thousands of jobs” from Long Island. I noted that during the past year Long Island has in fact gained 12,000 payroll jobs. 
So now I see a press release dated today from this campaign. It now takes a longer view. It says that “Long Island has lost more than 30,000 jobs since Tim Bishop became the Congressman.”
There was a time at the end of the George W. Bush presidency, when the deregulated financial system was shedding jobs. But this is 2012. I checked the record. The latest number for payroll jobs on Long Island is June 2012, 1,275,000 jobs. This is from the New York Department of Labor. Subtract the base of 1,238,200 in June 2002, when Congressman Bishop was first elected.

The difference is a 36,800-job gain, while Congressman Bishop’s opponent reports a 30,000-job loss. That’s a gap of 66,800 jobs. 

As the late great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Or, he might have added, his or her own arithmetic. 
One can understand a rounding error or a seasonal adjustment mistake. But when the direction of the data is reversed for a number that has already been publicly questioned, it rises to a reckless disregard for facts. If the previous error deserves two Pinocchios, this one deserves five.

The Altschuler campaign seems have gotten the message. The references to the 30,000 loss of jobs has been deleted in several places, as it should be–but not in every place. It's good that he has removed some of the erroneous statements. But what would an ethical person do to make restitution for the wrong facts in all the flyers that were sent out? How about a public admission that the statement was wrong?

Meanwhile, a new claim is being made on the website (Postscript Feb. 3, 2016: This site has been taken down).
Nearly 40,000 more people on Long Island are unemployed today than they were when Tim Bishop was sworn into Congress almost ten years ago.
This is a very different statement. It's now about the number of unemployed people and not about the number of jobs. This shifts the focus from the comprehensive payroll jobs report that the BLS collects from 400,000 employers, to the Current Population Survey.  Mr. Altschuler might not have cited the number of unemployed in the way he did if he knew these five facts about the survey: 

1. It's a small sample. A national sample of about one in every 1,250 households is conducted once a month to determine the number of employed persons and the number of unemployed and other characteristics of each household.  In the case of New York State, the monthly sample size is 3,730 households out of a population of 19.5 million. For Long Island, it implies a sample size of about 544 and for Suffolk County alone of 287.
2. Unemployment is an active mode. An interviewer contacts the head of household and finds out which members of the household are working and how many are not working but are actively seeking work.People are classified as unemployed if they are available for work and have taken specific actions during the previous four weeks to look for work. So when the number of unemployed goes up it could mean something positive, i.e., a greater confidence in the future of the economy, leading those who are without work to take active steps to apply for a position.
3. The BLS is properly nervous about how the data will be used. The original purpose of the Current Population Survey is to produce a national unemployment rate. The latest metro numbers (for June) are marked  preliminary. The user is warned that the numbers are "controlled to statewide totals" and inputs may be "revised" and "re-estimated". Because of the small sample at the county level, the data are not seasonally adjusted. 
4. Employed people may have more than one job. That is one way that the job numbers and the civilian employment numbers can be reconciled.
5. The number of unemployed needs to be related to county population and employment growth. Of the 100,000 growth in Long Island's population during the 11 years following the 2000 Census, approximately 10,000 were in Nassau County and 90,000 were in Suffolk. The First District of New York that Mr. Altschuler aspires to represent is in the eastern end of Suffolk County. 

Stay tuned.