The deeper and longer the recession goes on, the more questionable the numbers get.
Today the headline number was a loss of 85,000 jobs in December and a steady unemployment rate of 10%.
The market only expected to lose 3,000 jobs, so this was a negative report. However, like most unemployment reports, the Devil is in the details.
By far the largest change in the employment numbers was the number of people no longer in the workforce. Using the non-seasonally adjusted numbers 1,027,000 people stopped being counted as part of the labor force last month even though 321,000 of them say they still want a job.
Even the seasonally adjusted numbers show an increase of 843,000 people no longer counted as part of the labor force.
These numbers completely dwarf the headline numbers. That's how the seasonally-adjusted number of unemployed people could drop by 73,000, but the unemployment rate doesn't move.
If these people who wanted a job were still counted as part of the labor force then the unemployment rate would rise to 10.2%. If all of the them were counted as part of the labor force then the unemployment rate would rise to 10.5%.
The number of unemployed people actually collecting unemployment benefits has never been higher.
The more broad U-6 unemployment number rose from 16.4% to 17.1%.
The silver-lining in this report was that companies were adding temporary workers.
Temporary help services added 47,000 jobs in December. Since reaching a low point in July, temporary help services employment has risen by 166,000.
The thinking is that when business starts picking up companies will add temporary workers before they add permanent workers. This is correct, but with one big caveat - before companies add temporary workers they will add work to their current workers.
Average weekly hourly earnings declined again. Hours worked was flat.