LET me explain a bit about the concept of a "double dip" recession, which has been getting as much publicity as Lady Gaga.
The economy, as you know, hasn't been behaving itself lately -- also kinda like Ms. Gaga. Just when we think business conditions are going to start acting more ladylike, the economy shows you its butt end and raises a middle finger.
It happened again on Friday when the Labor Department announced that 125,000 jobs were lost by the US economy in June. Most of the loss was because the 2010 Census is winding down, but the number of new private sector jobs was also abysmal.
President Obama quickly rushed to the cameras -- as politicians often do -- to explain that even with the May dip we should be grateful that we've had five straight months of job growth.
You shouldn't be grateful.
In fact, you should be angry -- not only about the poor performance of the job market (and I'll get to the misleading notion that we've had five months of job growth in a moment) but also because you are being conned.
From January through May the government has reported job growth of 14,000, 39,000, 208,000, 313,000, culminating with 433,000 new jobs in May. The January and February reports originally showed job losses but turned positive when revisions were done.
Much of the March and April growth and nearly all of the May improvement came from temporary, part-time hirings by Census 2010.
Unless your goal in life is a career once every 10 years with the Census, these jobs really don't count. And, as I've shown in previous columns, there are also big questions as to how these jobs were calculated by Census and reported to the Labor Department.
That aside, add up those five months of growth and you get 1.007 million new jobs. Keep in mind that 750,000 additional jobs would have been needed just to absorb new workers coming into the economy during those months. Again, put the issue of jobs for new workers aside.
During those five months of alleged job growth, the Labor Department was pulling a statistical trick -- one that didn't work last year and probably won't work this year.
The department included in its calculations 728,000 jobs that it thinks -- but can't prove -- were created by newly formed companies that are beyond its ability to survey.
This outpaces last year's guess, which proved to be totally wrong. Census jobs that are very temporary. Estimates for probably non-existent jobs created by newly formed companies that likely don't exist. Seasonal adjustments. Revisions.
Tally the numbers and they don't add up to an economic recovery. And that gets me back to the issue of double-dip recession.
The good news is that there won't be a double dip. Why? Because the economy has never really recovered in the first place -- it's all one long slog along the bottom of an economic cycle.
Officially, the recession has not ended because the independent National Bureau of Economic Research hasn't declared the Great Recession over yet. And the group doesn't have a meeting scheduled to reconsider.
While the nation's gross domestic product may have been expanding since last summer, this really isn't a legitimate gauge anymore for the recession's end -- and the NBER knows it.
But there's another reason you are hearing so much lately about the "double dip." This notion saves the reputation of Wall Street economists who were almost universally calling for the US economy to perform much better than it has in 2010.
The itty-bitty improvement in the spring labor market gives economists -- like the president -- a chance to proclaim that they were correct about the US economy. They will also argue that any "double dip" came from situations outside the US that couldn't have been anticipated.
This is all, of course, nonsense and enough to make you go -- yes -- gaga.