OK

If it's true that you are what you eat, there's an explanation for the squirreliness of this Huckabee character.

Last week when he spoke at the Republican National Committee winter meeting, his remark about contraceptives wasn’t the only dumb thing he said.  If his speech is any indication, it seems like the Republicans want this year’s mid-term elections to be a replay of 2012.  It still hasn’t registered with them that the voters decisively rejected what they're offering.

When it comes to the grift, Republicans have no inhibitions and there was Huckabee, standing in front of a crowd talking about 92 million Americans who are jobless. This is a problem remedial Arithmetic won't fix.


Huckabee: “A lot of people are discouraged in America today and you can understand why.  92 million Americans don't even have jobs.  They’re not in the job market anymore.  They've given up.  For anyone who said, “Wow, the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.7 percent,” it’s only because another hundred thousand people or so have decided that there's no point in even applying for a job because there aren't any; the highest record of Americans that have taken themselves out of the job market in the history of our country.”
If 92 million people couldn’t find jobs, it would be the worst economic crisis in US history.

Here’s what the grifter did.  Huckabee misrepresented one of the numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with the monthly jobless numbers.  In the last report, there were 91.8 million people categorized as “Not in the labor force.”  Here’s the BLS definition for the category:

Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching.
The methodology used by the BLS to report on the job market is found on its website.   It starts by dividing the US population into 3 categories:  
Pie chart with Bureau of Labor Statistics classifications.

The Labor Force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons. Those “Not in the labor force” fall into two sub-categories:
  • Individuals who choose not to work, and
  • those who want a job but haven't searched for one in the prior 4 weeks for a variety of reasons.
 Young people  under 16 are excluded from  BLS calculations since they’re not part of the job market. That's why they aren't included in the pie chart below.
Pie chart with Bureau of Labor Statistics classifications.

Each month when the jobs report is released, there’s usually talk about a number of people who aren’t counted in the official unemployment rate because they gave up looking for a job and dropped out of the labor force.  There are some variations on this theme.

For example, when the monthly report came out a few weeks ago, it showed a weak number of jobs added over the previous month (+74,000) but the unemployment rate declined a substantial 0.3% from 7.0% to 6.7%.  It may seem incongruous but the number of jobs added  isn't even part of the equation that the BLS uses to calculate the rate.

Unemployed ÷ Labor Force = Unemployment rate

Using the figures from the two pie charts above:

10,351,000  ÷ 154,937,000  = 6.7%

Compared to the month before, the Unemployed number is down by half a million. The Labor Force shrank by about 350,000 and the Not in the Labor Force number, which isn't part of the equation, grew by about half a million.

It's a case study in confirmation bias when Republicans with suspicious minds look at the pie chart above and they see people being shuffled from the blue section to the red section so that they can be removed from the unemployment rate equation. I suppose they'd rather see half a million people shuffled into the Unemployed category so they could bitch about an uptick in the unemployment rate. But where's the evidence that the BLS is miscategorizing anyone?

Since the numbers don't seem to behave as expected, the drop in the Labor Force number stands in as some kind of proof. A question comes. Who ever heard of a shrinking Labor Force before Obama?

The data shows that the Labor Force shrank in 23 months of the 96 when Clinton was President and jobs were growing on trees in those days. It also shrank in 31 months of the 96 when GW Bush was President. Now considering the shitestorm handed to Barack Obama in January 2009, I'd expect a shrinking Labor Force.  In fact, the Employed number is still 2 million short of where it was in November 2007. So far, there were 29 months out of 61 when the Labor Force shrank, a reasonable result.  

Since the shrinking Labor Force proves nothing, we now have a frenzy of tea party hysteria on Mike Huckabee's Facebook page over the stunning news that 92 million Americans are jobless.  It's almost comical.

The BLS offers a ton of information for anyone who has a question about the employment and unemployment numbers. It turns out that there's an interesting scientific explanation for the migration of individuals away from the Labor Force.

The oldest members of the baby boom generation reached retirement age a few years ago. The US population distribution by age shows the widening bulge in the profile at age 65. As the bulge moves upward toward the top of the pyramid in the years ahead boomers retiring from the Labor Force will shift the balance of blue to red in the pie chart.  

US Population pyramid
The age distribution profile shows a second bulge at age 20.  It represents the disproportionate number of young people entering the jobs market challenged by the sluggish economic recovery.  In recent years and today, young people are entering the job market faster than boomers are exiting. Many of them show up in the red part of the pie chart on their 16th birthday.  

Demographic forces are exerting greater pressure on the job market than the unemployed who stopped looking for work. The BLS tracks the flow of individuals as they migrate from one classification to another. In the diagram below, the blue line represents the number of people leaving the "Employed" category to retire from the work force. The red line represents the number of people leaving the "Unemployed" category and exiting the work force.

not in labor force inflows from un vs en
This is just a partial explanation of the continual flow or churining that takes place in the population of Employed, Unemployed, and individuals entereing or exiting the labor force for any number of reasons.

It's much more complex than the tale of woe told by Republicans looking to score a political point and it requires urgent action in Congress.

There's more information available at the BLS website.

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