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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Can we trust this morning's surprisingly good employment report?

  • The short answer: Yes.

The longer answer: No statistics are entirely reliable, and the more of an outlier you're trying to measure, the less reliable your statistics become.

The big picture: No one at the Bureau of Labor Statistics is trying to commit fraud. The agency was doing its very best to be accurate in October 2012, when employment figures made Obama look good, and it's doing its very best to be accurate in June 2020, when the same report makes Trump look better than many expected.

  • What they're saying: It's possible that "the models used to produce these numbers — they aren't really raw data — have gone haywire in a time of pandemic," says Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman.

By the numbers: The official unemployment rate includes millions of Americans recorded as employed but absent from work due to "other reasons." Most economists agree those people should have been included as being unemployed on a temporary layoff, but for consistency's sake they were not.

  • The household survey, which measures unemployment, only managed to reach 67% of the people it tried to poll. That's down 15 percentage points from normal. Still, its results are in line with the results of the establishment survey, which measures employment, and whose response rate held up much better.

The bottom line: All macroeconomic statistics should be taken with a large grain of salt right now. That said, this morning's report is undeniably good news.

Go deeper

Biden: I don't blame Trump for COVID crisis but for walking away

In his first interview since announcing Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, Joe Biden told ABC's David Muir that he doesn't blame President Trump for the COVID crisis but for "walking away and not dealing with the solutions."

Why it matters: Trump has been criticized for his administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. has reported more deaths from COVID-19 and more cases than any other country.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.