Jobs Data Prove That Facts Still Matter.
Jobs data for January were released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.8%, the economy added 227,000 jobs, including 54,000 to women, and wages ticked slightly up by 3 cents. While little changed from last month, or the month prior, these numbers mean more than just their face value. The economic data released as part of the Current Employment Situation (CES) survey are like a finger on the pulse of our economy, especially as it relates to the day-to-day lives of all Americans. These data are important to our overall understanding of how different groups of people are faring in the U.S. economy and are our main tool for resisting alternative facts.
The BLS has collected and published monthly jobs data since 1915—over 100 years. The CES is a survey of about 146,000 businesses and government agencies representing about 623,000 worksites across the U.S. As a candidate, the President called these jobs numbers a “hoax”, claiming that the unemployment rate is far higher than is reflected in the data. What he missed is that these numbers reflect more than just unemployment. They tell us how much people are getting paid for their work, how many hours they are working, who is looking for work and who isn’t maybe because they’ve retired, chosen to stay home to care for children or family, or go to school. They tell us what industries are growing and who is employed in those jobs.
These data are important for employers making hiring decisions, employees negotiating better pay, and policy makers making decisions about our economy. The jobs numbers are a sort of economic surveillance that lets us track trends over time and provides an economic picture of different Americans, including women, immigrants, and veterans.
We’ve used the monthly jobs data to look at how women were impacted by the Great Recession, how they’ve fared throughout the recovery, and to identify gaps, particularly for women of color, women with disabilities, and single moms. Data from January show that while the overall unemployment rate remained relatively unchanged, for women it ticked up slightly. We also found that unemployment for Black women (6.7%) and Latinas (6.3%) remains much higher than for white men (4%), that while women make up half of all workers, they only gained 24% of the 227,000 jobs added to the economy last month, and that single moms are twice as likely to be unemployed than married men.
In a world of alternative facts, the monthly jobs data represent facts that matter, especially in making sure our economy works for everyone.