When Things Are Different Than They Appear

It's incumbent ...
As ministers, it's incumbent upon us to dig deeper to make sure we have all the information. (Flickr )

The July employment report recorded a strong labor market, exceeding expectations. Non-farm payrolls were estimated to be 255,000 compared to the consensus pre-report estimate (according to Bloomberg Econoday) of 185,000 and a revised June estimate of 292,000 (revised upward 5,000). Private payrolls were reported to be 217,000 compared to the consensus pre-report estimate of 175,000, and a revised June report of 259,000 (revised downward 6,000).

The unemployment rate for July increased from 4.8 percent to 4.9 percent. The participation rate of 62.8 percent was 0.1 percent higher. Average hourly earnings increased 0.3 percent for the month while the length of the average workweek increased 0.1 hours to 34.5 hours. U-6 unemployment, which includes part-time for economic reasons and those marginally attached to the work force, grew from 9.6 percent to 9.7 percent. 

This report was the second consecutive month of strong employment reports. The stock market reacted strongly to this report with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up nearly 200 points after its release.

But was the report as strong as some investors and speculators believe? Are things as they appear? Seasonal adjustments are modifications which BLS makes in the data to account for seasonal factors. These adjustments played a large role in the report. Unadjusted data show that private payrolls increased 85,000 instead of the 217,000 reported. While seasonal adjustments can be useful, in atypical years, seasonal adjustments can be deceiving.

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The report also reflected an increase of 150,000 in part-time jobs, and an increase of more than 200,000 in workers with no college education. Career-type, good-paying jobs appear to be scarce. Digging deeper into the data, the report is not as positive as it first appeared.

How many times in our churches and ministries are things different than they appear? We need to be vigilant. Wrong conclusions can create results ranging from inconvenience to devastation. Ministers have a responsibility to be diligent in checking the facts. But we also have a responsibility to be spiritually discerning. Finding or seeing the currently invisible can reduce problems and improve success.

The Lord commanded Joshua not to enter into treaties with the people of the land they were entering. One day a group of Gibeonites appeared before Joshua with old sacks on their animals, old wine skins, wearing old and parched sandals, and carrying dry and crumbly bread. They told the story of how they were from a distant land and had been traveling many days. The Gibeonites had heard that the Lord had given the land to the Israelites through Moses, and they wanted to enter into a pact. The Israelites checked the food, but did not ask the Lord. Joshua made peace with them, entered into a covenant, and swore an oath.

But things were different than they appeared. Three days later they found out that the Gibeonites were not from a far country, but were neighbors. It was too late. They had sworn an oath. The congregation knew the command of the Lord and murmured. Joshua had checked the evidence, but had not taken the time to ask the Lord (Josh. 9:1-27). How many times could problems be avoided in our ministry if we take the time to ask the Lord?

The King of Aram was upset that Elisha knew all of his plans. He sent an army to surround the city where Elisha was at and take him. The servant of Elisha was frightened.

But things were different that they appeared. Elisha asked the Lord to give his servant spiritual eyes. He saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire. His spiritual eyes provided assurance and the Lord delivered him (2 Kings 6:8-18).

As ministers, perhaps we need to dig deeper to make sure we have all the information. We need to check the facts. But we also need to seek the Lord.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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