Labor revises job growth up by 386,000

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday it had undercounted job growth, meaning the economy added 386,000 more jobs than previously estimated between April 2011 and March 2012. 

The new figures, which come just six weeks before an Election Day, give a better outlook on the labor market than had been cast by monthly reports. On average, the new figures would add more than 32,000 jobs per month to BLS's initial job reports during the time span reviewed. 

The revision also would allow President Obama to argue that his first term has resulted in a net gains in jobs. The addition of the undercounted jobs swings the net new job numbers from February 2009 to present from a loss of 261,000 jobs to a gain of 125,000.

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The revisions are announced annually each fall and are not timed for the election. 

The undercounting emerged after the Bureau of Labor Statistics made its regular update to its annual benchmark, which is used to make employment estimates. Between April 2011 and March 2012, BLS now believes it underestimated the nation's total non-farm employment by 0.3 percent, or 386,000 jobs.

The White House said the figures suggest the economic recovery has been "a bit stronger" than initially reported, and that most economic figures are subject to change. 

"The revisions announced in today’s reports are a reminder that economic data are subject to large revisions," Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a blog post."As a whole the pattern of revisions suggest that the recession that began at the end of 2007 was deeper than initially reported, and the jobs recovery over the last 2.5 years has been a bit stronger than initially reported, although much work remains to be done to return to full employment."

Job growth and the economy is the No. 1 issue in the presidential campaign between Mitt Romney and Obama. Romney argues Obama has badly mishandled the economy, and points to sluggish job growth and the 8.1 percent unemployment rate to make his case. 

The figures do not affect a series of disappointing monthly jobs reports that were issued over the summer. The sluggish growth in those reports led the Federal Reserve earlier this month to launch unprecedented steps to stimulate the economy. The Commerce Department on Wednesday said it was revising its estimate on economic growth in April through June down to 1.3 percent.

Obama did not mention either the revised GDP figures or the new jobs numbers at a campaign event in Virginia, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used the new GDP figures to continue to hammer the president's policies.

"Weak economic growth is the result of weak leadership from President Obama, whose failed policies have hurt small businesses and driven jobs overseas while Americans are left asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ " he said in a statement.

The revisions fall in line with BLS's previous benchmark updates. 

BLS noted that over the last decade its revisions have averaged plus or minus 0.3 percent. BLS annually updates its benchmark by checking it against state unemployment insurance tax records for the month of March.

The government missed the mark the most in underestimating the amount of jobs in mining and logging, as well as construction and information services. BLS revised its benchmark up by roughly 1.5 percent for those areas. Meanwhile, it actually had rosier estimates than was the reality for manufacturing, professional and business services, and government jobs, as it revised down those areas by a few tenths of a percentage point.

The new update is a preliminary benchmark change, and BLS will make its final adjustments in February.

The upward revision is the second bit of good news that emerged about the job market Thursday.

Individuals filing for unemployment benefits fell 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the best showing in more than two months, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week moving average, which is a better indicator of the job market's trend, also dropped, down 4,500 to to 374,000, after rising for six weeks. The decline meant that those seeking jobless benefits has dipped below the 375,000 level that economists believe represents the rate needed to cut into the unemployment rate, which sits at 8.1 percent.

—This story was posted at 11:24 a.m. and last updated at 1:50 p.m.