Friday, September 07, 2007

I don't believe

That the payroll numbers released today, bad enough as they were, bear any resemblance to reality. It's simply not possible. To see why, let's just review some numbers related to construction and real estate activities.

First, a quick review of the most recent housing and residential construction data:

Housing starts: -20.9% (July 2007/2006)
Housing units under construction: -16% (July 2007/2006)
Housing units completed: -22.2% (July 07/06)
New residential sales: -10.2% (July 07/06)
Existing home sales: -9% (July 07/06)

And yet, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)wants us to believe that employment in real estate services rose in August (600 new positions) and is up 1.5% versus year-ago levels?
Am I expected to think that residential construction employment has only fallen 3.5% in this period?

It gets worse. BLS data shows that employment in the offices of real estate brokers and agents has kept on rising, growing 3% in July over the year-ago level.

My head feels like exploding.

But even if we take these figures at face value, it's clear that eventually payrolls will catch up to activity levels, meaning that over the next few months and quarters the employment numbers will look very, very grim. And if analysts were surprised now, I can't imagine how they'll react then.