WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- All the preemptive talk about snow storms distorting the unemployment picture turned out to be overblown. Nonfarm payrolls fell by 36,000 in February, which was better than the 63,000 losses economists had expected. The number of unemployed persons, at 14.9 million, was essentially unchanged, and the unemployment rate remained at 9.7%. So much for all the preview chatter that job losses for February may be artificially inflated by 100,000 or more because the blizzards hit the same week that the government surveys businesses about their payrolls. Turns out there was no need for the advance damage control by Larry Summers, one of President Obama's top economic advisers, who warned on CNBC yesterday that the blizzards are likely "to distort the statistics." All the chatter led to headlines like these in previews of today's jobs report: Blizzards Seen Slamming Payrolls in February Snow expected to cloud February employment report Jobless excuses are nothing less than snow jobs Friday's Labor Report: A Snow Job? (that was ours). All of this unnecessary confusion could have been avoided if someone had placed a call to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the monthly job report. Bottom line from the BLS is that the job data would only be impacted if employees were off for an entire pay period and "workers who received pay for any part of the reference pay period, even one hour, are counted in the February payroll employment figures." Amid all the misinformation, BLS Commissioner Keith Hall felt compelled to issue a special statement today about the snow impact, explaining as follows: "It is possible that the storms had some negative impact on payroll employment. However, not every closure or temporary absence causes a drop in employment. Workers are counted as employed in the establishment survey if they are paid for a single hour during the reference pay period, whether they worked or not. Also, half of all workers have bi-weekly, semi- monthly, or monthly pay periods. I would assume that most of them worked during the part of the pay period that preceded or followed the snow events. In addition, we do not know how many workers may have been added to payrolls for snow removal, cleanup, and repairs due to the storms. Nor do we know how new hiring or separations were affected by the weather. For those reasons, we cannot say how much February's payroll employment was affected by the severe weather." OK, he hedged a little bit but basically he's saying a temporary absence due to a blizzard isn't going to have much impact on the monthly unemployment report. Looking at the numbers, there doesn't seem to be cause for concern anyway.The February data came in better than expected. So much for the snow job. --Written by Glenn Hall in New York. You can follow Glenn Hall's outrage on
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