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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics response rate to initial establishment survey, h/t MUFG's John Herrmann; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The U.S. government's blowout January jobs report had the lowest response rate in a decade.

Why it matters: Economists suspect that the 60.7% hit rate on the establishment survey from the 142,000 businesses and government agencies typically surveyed could mean a downward revision to the whopping 304,000 new jobs added in January.

  • "A weak collection rate yields risk of an abnormally strong payroll gain that ultimately is revised lower," John Herrmann, a strategist at MUFG Securities Americas, tells Axios.

December's initial response rate came in at 61%, but the follow-up survey's response rate ticked up to 88%. That led to a significant downward revision of December's payrolls from an initially reported 312,000 to 222,000.

  • There are plenty of cases in which payrolls are revised higher with future collection of establishment survey data — November's jobs report was revised up twice in the most recent example. But Herrmann says that would be unlikely for January.
  • January tends to see weak job growth after companies ramp-up hiring over the holidays, then let go of temporary workers, Herrmann points out.

The big picture: Barring an unprecedented downward revision, January will be the 100th consecutive month of U.S. job growth. Even with December's downward revisions, payrolls remain solid, but the markdowns show the data may not be breaking out the way initial estimates suggest.

Go deeper

Updated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden has arrived at the White House and he will sign executive orders and other presidential actions.

36 mins ago - Podcasts

Podcast: After the Biden inaugural

Joe Biden was sworn in today as America's 46th president in an inauguration unlike any other in modern history.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into the speech, the atmosphere and what it all tells us about the incoming administration, with Axios political reporters Hans Nichols and Alexi McCammond.

Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.