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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Sometimes the initial picture is only half the story. The October jobs report, out Friday, included considerable revisions to the tally of new jobs created in August and September — enough to change how we view the economy’s progress through the peak of the Delta variant.

Why it matters: It’s a reminder to step back and let the whole picture take shape. Throughout the pandemic recovery — a time with absolutely no modern economic precedent — the imperfections of gathering complex data have become all the more stark.

How it works: Each month’s tally of new jobs created gets revised in the following month’s report, and again the month after that, for a total of two revisions.

  • The numbers are derived from surveys, the fallibility of which Axios' Felix Salmon spells out here.

By the numbers: So far this year, the initial jobs number undershot the final estimate in all but one month, with an average of 99,000 in additional jobs per month subsequently added.

  • In total, more than a million jobs have been added to the tally by way of revisions.

Context: In the more predictable 2019, the average total revisions per month amounted to just 10,000, noted the White House Council for Economic Advisers in a tweet on Friday.

The bottom line: The data so far this year imply it would be reasonable to expect October’s red hot job gains to get revised even higher — and for September’s number to receive another lift as well.

Go deeper

Food and hospitality industries still recovering from pandemic shock

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Rising pay isn't bringing in enough restaurant workers, adding to the strain on current employees.

A survey of 4,700+ former, current and aspiring restaurant workers found many employees aren't leaving the workforce — just restaurants.

America's workers rush back to labor force

Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The big shocker of Friday's jobs report: More than half a million people entered the labor force, the biggest influx in over a year.

Why it matters: A giant cloud over the recovery — the snail-like pace workers have returned — may be starting to clear.

Dec 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Distilling disparate job numbers

Two storylines have emerged from the latest jobs numbers. Far fewer jobs were added to the U.S. economy in November than economists expected, yet the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2%.

Erica Pandey is joined by Washington Post economic columnist Catherine Rampell to dig into these numbers and how two very different economic indicators can coexist — and how they could influence Federal Reserve officials.