It’s All in The Numbers

By David Kidd, BPR

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the US said the American economy gained 528,000 jobs in July. Consensus forecasts were for a gain of 258,000. This puts the unemployment rate at just 3.5%.

By all accounts it was an incredible result. But as Joel Bowman, Managing Editor for Bonner Private Research, said:

“Here’s the bad news. The real unemployment rate is 9.6%. Much of the gain in jobs came from people taking a SECOND or part-time job. The labor force participation rate is at the same level it was in March 1977. Don’t take it from me. The following facts come straight from the BLS report (emphasis added is mine):

  • The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 5.9 million in July, little changed over the month. This measure is above its February 2020 level of 5.0 million. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job.
  • The labor force participation rate, at 62.1 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.0 percent, were little changed over the month. Both measures remain below their February 2020 values(63.4 percent and 61.2 percent, respectively).”


So the US unemployment rate isn’t 3.5% but 9.6%? Maybe …maybe not…’s all in the way governments, bureaucrats and economists around the world slice and dice the numbers.

Radio is no different. You have a great survey result so you don’t really want to dig too deep unless you find out that there were was a massive anomaly in the data that benefitted your station.

You had a bad result so you spend hours trolling through the data, going down rabbit holes to come up with “but we did increase cume with 18-24’s!”… even though that demo is way outside your target.

Every station gets a bad bounce occasionally. Equally, some will get a favourable spike that really doesn’t make sense. Therefore, don’t just look at two surveys back to back. Look at trends overtime. Don’t panic about one bad survey when your station is on an otherwise upward trend and don’t start popping the champagne corks over one up survey on what really is a downward trend.

The important thing is that as a program director, you need to be honest with yourself about the numbers…. whether they are good or bad. Let the sales team polish up the less than optimum results for client presentations if they need to but as a programmer you must always look at the data objectively without bias or emotion. This applies to both the good news and the bad news.


That is the only way correct strategic decisions are made.



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