David Leonhardt's column on how the unemployment rate can be deceptive (see earlier post) was timely indeed. The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics have the number of people employed decreasing by 255,000 in February, but the unemployment rate also fell, from 4.9% to 4.8%. This was made possible by a decrease in labor force participation; the labor force declined by 450,000 and the participation rate fell from 66.13% to 65.88%.
Those numbers are from the household survey; the decline of 63,000 jobs reported by the establishment survey got the headlines (which is strange, I would expect the headline writers to prefer the more dramatic figure).
Either way, not a good sign. Paul Krugman pre-empts the NBER and calls it a recession.