Monday, 20 October 2014

Shadow Stats

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Type of siteAnalyses Government Economic & Unemployment Statistics
OwnerJohn Williams
Current statusOnline is a website that claims to recalculate government published economic and unemployment statistics that have been updated or replaced or are no longer emphasized by traditional media outlets.
The site is authored by John Williams, an economic consultant with an economics BA and an MBA from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.[1]


Regarding inflation statistics, Williams says that some of the biggest changes to the Consumer Price Index were made between 1997-1999 in an effort to reduce Social Security outlays, using controversial changes by Alan Greenspan that include "hedonic regression", or the increased quality of goods.[2] Some other investors have echoed Williams' views, most prominently Bill Gross, who reportedly called the US CPI an "haute con job".[2] John S. Greenlees and Robert B. McClelland, staff economists at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, wrote a paper to address CPI "misconceptions", such as those of Williams.[3]
Regarding unemployment statistics, Williams points out that under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the U-3 unemployment rate series was created, which excludes people who stopped looking for work for more than a year ago as well as part-time workers who are seeking full-time employment. Although the old unemployment rate series', which include part time workers looking for full time work and unemployed who stopped looking over a year ago, is still published monthly by BLS, the U-3 series is generally considered more meaningful and is the headline rate picked up by most media outlets.[4]
Regarding growth statistics, Williams reports that the official numbers for U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and jobs growth range from "deceptive"[5] to "rigged" and "manipulated".

Critical reception[edit]

Shadowstats has been strongly criticized, particularly on its estimates of inflation. Market participants, economists and bloggers frequently point out that basic math shows that the Shadowstats CPI is an extreme overestimate. [6][7][8][3]
University of Maryland Professor Katharine Abraham, who previously headed the agency responsible for publishing official unemployment and inflation data, says of Williams' claims, "The culture of the Bureau of Labor Statistics is so strong that it's not going to happen." Steve Landefeld, former director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Commerce Department agency that prepares quarterly GDP reports, said in response to an article about Williams, "the bureau rigorously follows guidelines designed to ensure its work remains totally transparent and absolutely unbiased." In the same article, UC San Diego economist Valerie Ramey, a member of the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee, defended the methodological changes claiming they were only made "after academic economists did decades of research and said they should be done."[9]


  1. Jump up ^ Shadowstats main page: "Walter J. "John" Williams was born in 1949. He received an A.B. in Economics, cum laude, from Dartmouth College in 1971, and was awarded a M.B.A. from Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in 1972[...]. During his career as a consulting economist...
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b "Indeed, over the past few years, some of Mr Williams's views on economic indicators - the consumer price index, in particular - have been echoed by better-known and leading investment community figures, such as the bond investor Bill Gross, the strategist Stephen Roach and James Grant."
    Sikols, Richard (2008-09-20). "Forget short-sellers, Pollyanna creep could be the culprit". The Times Online (The Times). Retrieved 23 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b John S. Greenlees and Robert B. McClelland: Addressing misconceptions about the Consumer Price Index, Monthly Labor Review, August 2008
  4. Jump up ^ Alternative measures of labor underutilization, BLS.
  5. Jump up ^ Forsyth, Randall W. (30-10-09). ""Risk Trade" Returns, at Least for a Day". Barron's. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 23 November 2009.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Jump up ^ Why Shadow Government Statistics is very, very, very wrong, Michael Sankowski, The Traders Crucible, February 1, 2011.
  7. Jump up ^ Niall Ferguson Has Not Admitted He Was Wrong About Inflation, Adam Ozimek, Forbes, October 10, 2013
  8. Jump up ^ The Absurdity of ShadowStats Inflation Estimates, David Clayton, May 15, 2011.
  9. Jump up ^ Zuckerman, Sam (25 May 2008). "Economist challenges government data". The San Francisco Chronicle. 

External links[edit]

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