This is one of those infuriating economic reports that drive people crazy. Ready? Here goes:

The state’s jobless rate fell to 7.3 percent last month, from 7.4 percent in August. The national average is 9.1 percent. So far, so good. We like good news.

But a separate “payroll survey” of companies shows Massachusetts lost 2,300 jobs in September. A normal person’s reaction is and should be: Huh? Well, the difference is that the jobless rate is determined by surveys of regular residents at home. The payroll number comes from surveys of companies. Sometimes the results head in opposite directions.

The payroll number can be lower for a number of reasons — people drop out of the workforce and go back to school, people get at-home consulting jobs, or people are working at new start-up companies that are now yet on surveyors’ lists of companies to call. Who knows?

Bottom line: This is all so-so, mixed news, tilting toward disappointing due to the payroll numbers. A few more months of data is needed before it can be figured out whether we’re in a “double dip” recession or not.

File under: Economists. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them

An update: Here’s some good news coming out of Philly Fed. The economy seems to be slowly reviving this month. We’ll see.



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