The Unbearable Vagueness of Data

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An increase in Connecticut unemployment from 8.5 percent to 9 percent at the same time the country’s unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent to 7.9 percent sounds grim.

But the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency that analyzes the survey data the estimate relies on, said Tuesday that it doesn’t matter at all.

Because of the size of the survey in Connecticut, the difference between 8.5 percent and 9 percent is illusory. In the words of statisticians, it is not statistically significant.

As a reporter, this is tough. Because this isn’t a problem just of volatility in the numbers from month to month. This says that what happened in the entire last year can’t be accurately described.



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