The FedEx Factor: How Holiday Online Commerce Blew Up Payroll Data

This is fascinating, assuming the numbers are anywhere close to suggested. Call it the FedEx Factor: How holiday online commerce blew up last week’s jobs data:

Increases in online holiday shopping that have spurred the hiring and firing of thousands of express delivery workers is playing havoc with U.S. payroll data, and indicates employment will rebound in coming months, according to economists at Credit Suisse.

Employment at courier and messenger services, which include workers at companies like FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., plunged by 45,000 in January after climbing by 46,000 the prior month, according to figures from the Labor Department. The swing in that one category, comprising 0.4 percent of all payrolls, accounted for all the slowdown in employment last month, and then some.

It’s eye-popping to think that such a small industry moved the whole payroll count,” Jonathan Basile, a Credit Suisse economist in New York, said in an interview. “That tells you that there are seasonal factors at work that the Labor Department hasn’t been able to adjust. Think of the ways holiday shopping has changed over the years. The government’s adjust process is a slow-moving vehicle.”

More here.