First the relatively good news: Job watchers ADP Employment Services are announcing that February was the best month in two years in terms of work lost. The New Jersey-based firm says some 20,000 jobs were shed last month, following a depressingly high 60,000 in January. And ADP does not track government hiring, which, as we all know, has been one of the few bright spots in the labor market, lo these last many months.
Now the less good news: On Friday the Labor Department is apparently going to report that the unemployment rate ticked up to 0.1% in February to 9.8%. If true that would mark the first upward movement in four months. of arguably the indicator most crucial to a robust recovery.
But more good news: Another employment-monitoring outfit, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says there were just over 42,000 jobs slashed in February, the lowest tally in about three-and-a-half years. And compared to February, 2009? Forget it! There were like 186,350 lost back then according to Challenger.
If you are confused by all these divergent numbers, take heart: you are so not alone. There are almost as many ways to slice the data as there are companies not doing any hiring right now. Few of the unemployment figures out there, for instance, count job seekers who have simply given up and stopped looking. But! Let's stay positive here—and the truth is that when both ADP and Challenger are reporting steep drops in job losses, then we have to wonder: can spring's real green shoots be far behind?