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Labor Official: Don’t Worry About Likely Looming Spike in Jobless Rate

Related to the warnings from some economists that the official unemployment rate will likely jump again this year, a Labor Department official today conveyed this message to lawmakers: Don’t worry about it.

Testifying before the Joint Economic Committee, Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told the panel that, yes, historically, as labor markets improve, the resulting increase in the labor pool has caused the jobless rate “to bump up temporarily” — a trend that will likely happen this year as well. “We’ve got a particularly high potential for that because so many people are unemployed and we’ve lost so many people out of the labor force,” he said.

But, he added, that spike, because it’s caused by the economy gaining strength, is ultimately misleading.

“If we start to see real improvement,” he said, “we shouldn’t get too concerned if the unemployment rate hits a bit of a speed bump and goes up for a couple of months.”

Unless, from Congress’s perspective, those couple of months arrive around November.

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