The BLS Report Covering November 2013: Effects of the Government Shutdown Fade, Part Time Work Increases

By Hugh, who is a long-time commenter at Naked Capitalism. Originally published at Corrente. A complete archive of Hugh’s reports can be found here.

In the household survey on employment, seasonally unadjusted, the October government shutdown took out expected October highs and created losses in numerous categories. In November, these were largely reversed. The biggest ongoing hit is to the labor force which is still 490,000 smaller than it was in September. And while employment increased, unadjusted, 631,000, most of this was in part time jobs (554,000). Unemployment fell 504,000, reflecting that most of the net change in employment came from the unemployed finding work, and not from an influx of those defined as outside the labor force.

The end of the government shutdown was also reflected in the decline of the official (adjusted) unemployment rate from 7.3% to 7.0%. My alternate calculation of this returned to its pre-shut down level of 12.6%.

In the business survey in November, seasonally adjusted (trendline) 203,000 jobs were added to the economy. Taken together with October, 403,000 jobs were added. This is essentially unchanged from the 407,000 added during this period last year. And this November’s number is 44,000 smaller than last November’s 247,000. Trendline, job creation for the first 11 months of 2013 is running 9,000 a month higher than in 2012 (188,000 vs. 179,000). The general rule of thumb is that only job creation substantially over 200,000/month will significantly affect the nation’s unemployment crisis.

Unadjusted, total nonfarm jobs increased 421,000, and the private sector grew by 309,000. Most of these jobs continue to be crap. One bright note was hours and earnings were both up slightly. Earnings for all workers are running ahead about 2.3% year over year.


Household/Employment Survey

Potential Labor Force
In November, the Civilian Non-Institutional Population over 16 (NIP) representing the nation’s potential labor force grew 186,000 from 246.381 million to 246.567 million. Multiplying this increase by the employment-population (58.6%) gives 109,000, a rough estimate of the number of jobs needed in November to keep up with population growth. As you can see, trendline the economy did about 90,000 better than this.
Labor Force
Seasonally adjusted, in November, the labor force grew 455,000 from 154.839 million to 155.294 million. This reflects the end of the government shutdown, but it is still 265,000 less than September’s 155.559 million.

Unadjusted, the labor force grew 128,000 from 154.918 million to 155.046 million. This number is 490,000 smaller than in September.

Basically, we would expect a peak in the labor force in October but this didn’t happen because of the government shutdown. The difference between the September and November numbers is about the same as last year with seasonal adjustment. Unadjusted though, the drop off is about 370,000 larger than expected, indicating a bigger hit to the economy.

Participation Rate
The respective changes in the labor force are reflected in the participation rate, the ratio between labor force and the potential labor force as represented by the NIP. Seasonally, adjusted the participation rate rose two-tenths percent to 63.0%.

Unadjusted, it was unchanged at 62.9%.

In November, seasonally adjusted, employment showing the effects of the return to work following the end of the government shutdown increased 818,000 from 143.568 million to 144.386 million. To put this in perspective, seasonally adjusted employment is now only 83,000 larger than it was in September. Last year the September to November increase was 303,000.

Unadjusted, employment increased 631,000 from 144.144 million to 144.775 million, 124,000 larger than the September number. Last year September-November employment grew by 216,000.

Employment-Population Ratio
Seasonally adjusted the employment ratio, the ratio of the employed to the potential labor force of the NIP, increased three-tenths percent to 58.6% (same as September).

Unadjusted, it grew two-tenths percent to 58.7% (58.8% in September).

In November, seasonally adjusted unemployment decreased 365,000 from 11.272 million to 10.907 million.

Unadjusted, it fell 502,000 from 10.773 million to 10.271 million. Given that the unadjusted labor force increased by 128,000 and employment increased by 631,000, the drop in unemployed came from job finding and not from being defined out of the labor force.

In this regard, it is important to remember that the BLS uses a restrictive definition for unemployed. It does not mean without a job but want one. Under the jobseeker model the BLS uses, it means without a job but have looked for one in the last 4 weeks.

Unemployment rate
Seasonally adjusted, unemployment decreased three-tenths of a percent to 7.0%.

Unadjusted, it declined four-tenths of a percent to 6.6%.


Full Time vs Part Time Employment
Seasonally adjusted (trendline), full time employment (35 or more hours/week) increased 652,000 from 116.276 million to 116.928 million. This rise returned it to near its pre-shutdown September level of 116.899 million or an increase of 29,000. In contrast, last year the September to November increase in full time employment was 406,000.

Seasonally adjusted part time employment (1 to 34 hours/week) grew 174,000 from 27.278 million to 27.452 million, 47,000 more than in September. Last year September to November part time employment actually fell 175,000.

Unadjusted, full time employment rose 77,000 to 116.875 million from 117.798 million. This is 433,000 fewer than in September. By comparison, last year, the fall off from September was 163,000.

Part time employment (actual) exploded up 554,000 from 27.346 million to 27.900 million. In 2012, September to November, part time workers increased only by 179,000.

Involuntary vs. Voluntary Part Time Employment
Seasonally adjusted, involuntary part time workers decreased (331,000) to 7.719 million from 8.050 million.

Unadjusted, they decreased 137,000 from 7.700 million to 7.563 million.

Voluntary part time workers, seasonally adjusted, rose 90,000 from 18.786 million to 18.876 million.

Unadjusted, voluntary part time workers grew 400,000 from 19.228 million to 19.628 million. This large increase explains most of the increase in part time workers, seasonally unadjusted, noted in the previous section.

[Standard Note: As usual, I will note that the distinction between voluntary and involuntary is often in the eye of the beholder. Part time workers for voluntary reasons include those who must work part time because of they are raising children, taking care of a relative, or on Social Security and must restrict their hours to stay below Social Security limits on income. For the workers involved, part time work often is not a voluntary choice.]


The U-6
Post shutdown, the BLS’ broader measure of un- and under employment, the U-6, decreased, seasonally adjusted (trendline) 0.6% to 13.2%. Unadjusted, it decreased 0.5% to 12.7%.

Seasonally adjusted, the U-6 is composed of 10.907 million unemployed, 7.719 million involuntary part time workers, and 2.096 million of the marginally attached (those who have no job but looked for work in the last year but not the last month; a decrease of 187,000 from October), or 20.722 million total, a drop of 883,000 from last month (and the shutdown).

[Standard note]
As said above, the BLS has a restrictive, though internationally recognized, definition of unemployment, that is without a job but have looked for one in the last 4 weeks. The marginally attached are not counted as part of the labor force and their use in the U-6 is an indication that this is what the BLS considers its functional undercount to be.

The BLS also has a more extended category: Not in Labor Force, Want a Job Now (seasonally unadjusted). In November, this fell 246,000 to 5.437 million.

This BLS category does not often reflect well actual movements in the economy. So I have developed a simple alternative to it. I calculate the size of where the labor force should be by multiplying the potential labor force of the NIP by a participation rate characteristic of a solid economic expansion (67%, the Clinton boom was at or above this level for nearly 40 months). The difference between this and the current labor force measures the size of the real BLS undercount, those who do not have jobs but would work if jobs were available to them. This then allows me to recalculate where real unemployment is and where real un- and under employment (disemployment) is.

.67(246.567 million) = 165.200 million (where the labor force should be)
Trend Undercount:
165.200 million — 155.294 million = 9.906 million, a decrease of 330,000 from October
Current Undercount:
165.200 million — 155.046 million = 10.154 million, a decrease of 363,000 (from up 862,000 in October)

Real Trend Unemployment (that is seasonally adjusted) :
10.907 million (U-3 unemployment) + 9.906 million (undercount) = 20.813 million, down 695,000 (from up 879,000 in October due to the federal government shutdown)
20.813 million / 165.200 million = 12.6%, down 0.4% (from up 0.4% last month)

Real Unemployment Now (i.e. seasonally unadjusted) :
10.271 million (U-3 unemployment) + 10.154 million (undercount) = 20.425 million, down 865,000 (from up 1.008 million in October)
20.425 million / 165.200 million = 12.4%, down 0.5% (from up 0.6% in October)

Real Trend Disemployment:
Real Trend Unemployment + involuntary part time workers seasonally adjusted = 20.813 million + 7.719 million = 28.532 million, down 1.026 million (from up 1.003 million last month due to the government shutdown)
28.532 million / 165.200 million = 17.9%, down 0.6% (from up 0.6% last month)

Real Disemployment Now:
Real Unemployment Now + involuntary part time workers seasonally unadjusted = 20.425 million + 7.563 million = 27.988 million, down 1.002 million (from up 1.186 million in October)
27.988 million / 165.200 million = 16.9%, down 0.7% (from up 0.7% last month)

As I have pointed out, the rationale for my calculation and use of this undercount is that it closely reflects what is going on in the economy. And the government shutdown provides an illustration of this. The shutdown pushed these numbers up substantially in October and once the shutdown was over, the numbers reverted to pre-shutdown levels. While government employees may have been paid for their time away from work due to the shutdown, these calculated figures indicate that significant numbers of non-government employees were also affected, and it is unlikely that their reduced wages were made up.
The number of long term unemployed (6 months or more) increased slightly (3,000) to 4.066 million. The long term unemployed account for 37% of the U-3 unemployed, a 1% increase from October.

White unemployment decreased one-tenth percent to 6.2%. White teen unemployment increased 0.8% to 18.6%. African American unemployment decreased 0.7% to 12.3%. African American teen unemployment was little changed, decreasing 0.2% to 35.8%.

Establishment/Business/Jobs Survey

Seasonally adjusted the private sector added 196,000 jobs and government 7,000 yielding the reported 203,000 total.

Last month’s jobs estimate was revised down 4,000 to 200,000 and September’s was revised up 12,000 to 175,000.

Seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs were 136.765 million (up 203,000). Total private were 114.908 million (up 196,000).

Unadjusted, total nonfarm jobs increased 421,000 to 137.942 million. Private sector jobs increased 309,000 to 115.622 million.

Unadjusted, construction fell 57,000 to 5.955 million. Manufacturing fell 3,000 to 12.022 million.

Unadjusted, the subsector of private service providing jobs increased 420,000 to 96.761 million, of which retail trade added 471,000 to 15.7731 million, transportation and warehousing added 70,000 to 4.6007 million; temp jobs increased 13,100 to 2.8798 million; healthcare added 44,700 to 14.6910 million, and leisure and hospitality lost 214,000 to 14.009 million. As per usual, the jobs being created are not good quality jobs.

Unadjusted, government added 112,000 jobs to 22.320 million. State education gained 34,300 to 2.5931 million, and local education added 104,600 to 8.1443 million. This marks the end of the back to school state and local education hiring.

Hours and Earnings
Average weekly hours for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased one-tenth hour to 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings increased 4 cents to $24.15/hour and average weekly earnings grew $3.80 cents to $833.18. a 2.3% increase yoy.

Average weekly hours for production and nonsupervisory (blue collar and clerical) personnel fell also grew 0.1 hour to 33.7 hours (the same as a year ago). Average hourly earnings increased 3 cents to $20.31/hour. Average weekly wages increased $3.04 to $684.45, a 2.2% increase yoy.

Household data (Employment/unemployment)
Statistical significance: +/ – 300,000
The A tables:
A 1 for most information and categories
A 2 Unemployment by race
A 8 Part time workers
A 9 Full time workers
A 12 Duration of unemployment
A 15 U 6 un- and under employment
A 16 Persons not in labor force

Establishment date (jobs)
Statistical significance: +/ – 90,000
The B tables:
B 1 Total jobs and jobs by industry/type
B 2 Weekly hours, all employees
B 3 Hourly and weekly earnings, all employees
B 6 Weekly hours, blue collar
B 7 Hourly and weekly earnings, blue collar

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jackrabbit

    Historical Data from Hugh’s Reports
    = == = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    ………………… Nov’10 |- Nov’11 |- Nov’12 |- Nov’13

    Employment / Population
    Ratio ………….. 58.2 = | = 58.5 = | = 58.7 = | = 58.6

    BLS, U-3 Unemployment
    Rate …………… 9.8 = -| = 8.6 = -|- = 7.7 = -|- = 7.0

    Hugh, Real Unemployment
    Number ………. 26.181 | 24.006 | 20.335 | 20.813
    Rate ………….. 17.0 ==| 15.6 ==| 12.4 ==| 12.6

    Hugh, Real Dis-Emp
    Number ………. 32.013 | 29.033 | 28.511 | 28.532
    Rate ………….. 20.0 ==| 18.0 ==| 17.4 ==| 17.9

      1. Jackrabbit

        I only wish I could’ve formatted it better.

        No one has commented on the numbers, so I’ll make some observations:

        * The data is limited but data from 2009 would probably not be very informative anyway because there was much volatility after the 2008 financial crisis.

        * The inadequacy of BLS’s definition of who is unemployed is made more clear.

        * The job market improved in 2011 and 2012 but stalled in 2013. Its difficult to see any improvement in the short term. Will Democrats pay a price for this in the 2014 elections?

        1. posa

          I think it’s most helpful to have employment figures going back to the 2007 peak… It was 146 million then… currently we’re at 144.5 or so … so employment is still below that peak 75 months ago. Meanwhile, as Hugh states, between 90,000 and 120,000 people enter the workforce every month. That’s why we are short some 28.5 million full-time jobs. Graph that over dismal industrial output (Still below 2008 levels) and you can see what poor job Obama has done after the disaster of the Bush years.

          With the indicators all suggesting the bull market in equities is reaching a top and the Fed is about to ease off of QE … you can imagine the dire straits we’re in

  2. Fiver

    You’ve more patience than I, Hugh. I long since lost faith in any of these BEA/BLS Reports or the most publicized “private sector” surveys – in a business/government/institute culture as thoroughly corrupted as now exists

    with the number of revisions, re-revisions and revisions to how revisions are revised, not to mention the inherent flaws (eg. how many households have cell numbers only and thus are invisible? A big number, methinks) this ‘measure’ cries for an online system employers must use to register their business name, type, location hires/layoffs/fires, wage/salary, etc., which the system then processes to present information that is accurate, clear, up to date, and is visible to the public online – at least someone has a shot at verification and the Executive, the Fed and the “Market” would just have to lump it.

    That said, I do note this from the Executive Summary of the Report (their formatiing):

    Household Survey Reference Period |
    | |
    |In the household survey, the reference period for November 2013 was the calendar week |
    |that included the 5th of the month. Typically, the reference period for the household |
    |survey is the calendar week that includes the 12th of the month. The November reference|
    |week was moved up in 2013 due to the timing of the November and December holidays. In |
    |accordance with usual practice, this change is made in November when necessary to allow|
    |for sufficient time to process data and conduct survey operations.

    This caveat presumably means something – if you knew their typical processing patterns, for example, do more hires/fires occur and are reported in week 1 than week 2 of a month? Or would such useful info be deemed secret of some such?

    Anyway, there’s nothing here to indicate big momentum forward despite the ISM/Chicago PMI noise – while the “Market” wildly over-reacted in “relief” after the brief holiday retail sales blues, a 3% drop in sales absent bad weather country-wide must have some people on eggs right now hoping the real spending is still to kick in.

    Have a good one, Hugh.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      But you can get a sense of what is correct from state revenue reports assuming there aren’t pension shenanigans because state and local sources are interested in the correct numbers, and sales/food taxes are collected by companies who are in turn watched.

      Internet sales tax collections and rising property values will increase revenue, but states don’t seem to be flush with cash because other revenues which are signs of local economic activity are decreasing or remaining stagnant.

      It does seem that budget cuts are the order of the day. Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest counties in America because there aren’t many retirees there which skews numbers, is proposing to eliminate over 1,700 school positions as well as providing furloughs for the remaining employees. This is a story of the real economy because unlike the Federal Government state bonds aren’t quite the seller as T-bills, and people tend to not work for State-backed fun dollars which they can do, just U.S. dollars.

  3. MikeNY

    It’s the same old dysfunctional model. We’re supposed to wait until labor markets tighten up, and then Mr Market will work to raise worker wages. Except that has not happened for the last 25+ years: real wages NEVER recover in real terms, and the gap between the plebs and the plutocrats is wider after every cycle.

    Our plutocrats and their minions are conservative because they have something to conserve. So, they’ve patched the model up with gaffers tape and baling wire (and trillions for the banks), and we’ll party for a while like its 1999 until the next explosion when we’ll see that nothing has changed.

    Meanwhile, it’s Christmastime, and Grinches and Scrooges like Kudlow tell us just to wait for growth, that if we just cut taxes it will come, and it will deliver presents for everyone — just like Santa Claus. No need to importune the billionaires and multinationals, the “job creators”, who will never have enough.

    The economic model is not only dysfunctional, it is morally bankrupt, and we need to say it out loud over and over again. That’s a start: satyagraha.

    It’s been fascinating to watch the panicked defensiveness on the right at Pope Francis’s comments on capitalism. Deep down, many can feel that he’s right.

    1. susan the other

      My long comment just got lost in the ozone so I’ll just add this to yours. Today on Maxkeiser, Steve Keen informed us that Dodd Frank repealed section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act which allowed the Fed to bail out the public instead of the banks! They just eliminated this provision at the behest of the finance lobby. Which I take to be evidence of the usefulness of unemployment to keep inflation down and deflation at a desirable level sufficient to enrich the rich. Heaven forbid we might actually go to full employment.

  4. Banger

    To me, the latest figures are part of the general trend towards the new equilibrium. People are adjusting to the new situation–those who can find conventional jobs soldier on, those who cannot find something in the barter and underground economies to keep body and soul together. We make adjustments and we move on.

    Growth has been slow by historical standards and there is no change-agent as we evolve slowly into a more rigid class-system and neo-feudalism. As far as I can see this seems to be what we, collectively, want because Americans do not agree on any vision of the future other than more of the same. As long as the majority can shop-till they drop we will have social stability.

    1. Jackrabbit

      The message that you keep ‘banging’ out in comment after comment strikes me as defeatist.

      The future is NOT fated like some natural process of equilibrium adjustment, and your characterization of our current and future state as ‘what we all seem to want’ is plain wrong. The move toward neo-feudalism has largely been accomplished by slight-of-hand (propaganda/lies, easy credit, distractions, etc.). As the public gains a greater understanding (via some harsh lessons) of how ‘the best politics that money can buy’ has worked against their interests, the trend to neo-feudalism may well be reversed.

      Furthermore, given the current level of discontent (as shown in polls, etc.), isn’t it more accurate to say: people are not yet _discontent enough_ to effect meaningful change? And aren’t we already at a point where _most_ can not shop ’til they drop?

      I think most NC readers would agree with Margret Mead:

      Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

      1. Banger

        I have yet to read what you or anyone else has written that shows a course of action or a scenario that would attack the foundation of this system. The system is robust and after the shock of 2008 recovered better that what anyone on the left, including all the heavyweights who post here predicted.

        Most people want security not change when push comes to shove. Americans oppose doing anything about climate change or poverty because they don’t want to take the change of changing their circumstances. People, in the abstract favored Occupy when it started but after they realized most of the protesters did not appear to have a “job” or were cultural minorities they turned against the movement.

        Before we can have something resembling a revivified left we have to have some kind of moral/spiritual revival in this country. We would have to agree that we are connected–that society is important, that the commons is important–we would have to turn away from the culture of narcissism that exists today into one where our fellows, the earths environment, our progeny actually count for something and that we would be willing to sacrifice a bit of self-indulgence for the betterment of the whole–I don’t see this happening anytime soon–but that’s where we should put our energies and where I’m putting mine. Perhaps the new stability with a more rigid class-structure, a tightening of the belt for the poor and perhaps sections of the middle-class is what we need right now in order to, perhaps, consider which direction to move in.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Yes, although many at NC have the vision to see that it WOULD happen, a reassessment is only just beginning as the disillusionment grows. How this plays out, though, is very difficult to predict (and hence my objection to what you wrote earlier).

          1. Skippy

            Jackrabbit ditto – the rub seems to be some folks want a Misses type reality where its all spelt out for them, cough in one bound, like humans know what their doing thingy.

            skippy… not going to happen… so… they wait… or cling to some dusty tomb…

        2. Mansoor H. Khan


          In a sense we are much better able to deal with deflation this time around (as opposed to during the Great Depression).

          All kinds of public assistance programs (Welfare, Foodstamps, local programs, Medicaid, etc) and rising number of people applying for and getting social security disability benefits and even more and more baby boomers reaching the social security age and collecting social security benefits counter the deflationary trend in the economy.

          All this additional spending is just “social credit/guaranteed income program” by another name.

          I believe that the deflationary trend will speed-up and the banking system will start “cracking-up” again. Most likely there will be more bailouts. And I expect the markets to crash. Mad-max scenario will not occur (inshallah) if the banking system is able to clear checks.

          This process will probably continue for a very long time (10 years?) as long as people get enough help (i.e., social credit by another name) that they don’t starve or freeze to death or end-up on the streets.

          I expect that eventually deficit spending will lead to inflation as fossil fuels become more and more scarce/expensive in terms of EROEI.

          Then taxes will have to be raised on the rich and upper middle classes to rein in inflation.

          We will probably muddle through as long as “checks clear” and too many people don’t end up on the streets.

          We always have had a distribution problem when the rate of production of goods and services skyrocketed due to the use of fossil fuels (250 years ago?). Specially since the start of the industrial revolution.

          This distribution problem was masked by growth. Growth did provide opportunities for most in society to get enough money to not revolt and get too upset (at least in the industrialized countries).

          We now must solve this distribution problem and we must keep in mind the dwindling fossil fuel supplies which has powered our material production/modernity so far.

          I suggest the following:

          A) we should start a social credit/Social dividend/guaranteed income program and give every U.S. citizen $500 per month regardless of income or regardless of any public assistance they currently receive.

          B) Increase taxation to keep inflation in check. Increased taxation should include stiff consumption tax to discourage too much consumption by the rich and upper middle classes.

          D) Start stringent energy conservation and run a low-grade industrial civilization with less yearly fossil fuel consumption.

          C) This will buy us time to develop another cheap energy source and possibly resume growth or if we don’t find another another cheap energy source we will have time to learn how to live without machines, fertilizers and pesticides.

          more at:

          Mansoor H. Khan

          1. Jackrabbit

            We will probably muddle through…

            Every ‘muddle through’ scenario fails when climate change is factored in.

  5. run75441

    Thanks Hugh:

    You are hitting all of the things I would have considered. How far back do you go with your real Unemployed Rate? I use EOY October/November 2001 or 66.7% . . . the end of the 2001 recession.

    1. Hugh

      I use 67% because from October 1996 to June 2000, during a period of 42 months with only one exception, the participation rate was at or above 67%.

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