Fed policymakers indicated in their post-meeting statement Wednesday that there’s still room for improvement in the job market. While the unemployment rate “stayed near its recent low” in December, “some further strengthening” is expected in labor conditions.
That doesn’t mean central bankers or Labor Department economists are about to abandon the unemployment rate as their main gauge. That figure is the “number that’s most comparable over time and one that’s most comparable internationally,” said former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen, who left the government last month at the end of her four-year term as President Barack Obama’s appointee to the post.
U.S. efforts to define and measure unemployment stemmed from the Great Depression, when about 13 million people were out of work, amounting to a 25 percent jobless rate. But no one knew these figures at the time or whether they were improving or deteriorating, according to a 2009 paper by BLS economist Steven Haugen.
Researchers devised the methodology, and the monthly employment report began in 1940, based on a regular sample survey of the population. That practice continues today, with about 60,000 U.S. households surveyed each month by the Census Bureau. Payroll figures come from a separate survey of businesses and government agencies.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Full employment may be redefined as Trump attacks U.S. benchmark – Chicago Tribune