U.S. payrolls unexpectedly fell in January, but the unemployment rate surprisingly dropped to a five-month low, according to a government report Friday that hinted at labor market improvement. . . . While a sharp increase in the number of people giving up looking for work helped to depress the jobless rate, some details of the employment report were encouraging. The number of "discouraged job seekers" rose to 1.1 million in January from 734,000 a year ago.
I'm no economist, and maybe I shouldn't open my big fat computer, but does this fool anybody? There are fewer jobs now than a month ago, but the unemployment rate fell? People have been out of work for so long that you don't bother to count them anymore, and you call it good news because fewer people are being counted? I honestly don't know who a story like this is aimed at, because I can't imagine anyone who would both read it and be stupid enough to be fooled by it. Here's what the story sounds like in my head as I read it: "Something bad happened, but surprisingly it was good, according to a report that hints that things are getting better even though they're getting worse. . . . While the numbers in the report show that our optimism is misplaced, some details of the report were encouraging. There's more bad news than ever!"