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Two Economists, Two Takes On Fed Job Statistics

The classic debate, with economist George Zeller (left) and Joel Elvery of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (right)
The classic debate, with economist George Zeller (left) and Joel Elvery of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (right)

First, George Zeller. He’s an economic analyst in Cleveland who’s looked at non-seasonally adjusted labor data. He says the numbers show this corner of Ohio giving out more pink slips than any other major metropolitan area.

Comparing November 2013 to November 2012, the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor region lost 8,100 jobs.

That includes 1,100 in local, state, and federal governments…and 4,700 in the hospitality and leisure sector, which would include jobs related to gambling, spectator sports, and museums, among others.

“Now that’s an industry that we’re hoping to help drive our recovery. And instead of increases, we saw that was the largest loss of any single industry that we saw in November, in the region.”

But Joel Elvery sees the employment picture differently.

“This kind of story of substantial job declines would imply that employers have to be laying workers off," he says. "We don’t see any evidence of that.”

Elvery is an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He believes the Bureau of Labor Statistics has actually been underestimating job growth in the region, and that revised figures – which will come out in late next summer or early fall – will show a positive number.

“The average revision -- so far in 2011 and 2012 -- increased monthly employment totals by 12,700 jobs. And so actually the average revision’s larger than the average decline, which suggests that if the revisions follow the same pattern they’ve been on…that after the revisions, we’ll find that we’ve had a job gain and not a job loss.”

Elvery says he can’t provide even a ballpark guesstimate as to what those gains will be, but says his overall analysis indicate a flat hiring trend, not one that’s cutting jobs.