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Jobs in America Vol. 1-Unemployment

Crossposted at My Left Wing

Over the past couple of weeks we've heard from the right on the status of the economy and the sucess of the Bushco tax cuts in stimulating economic growth.  While I don't intend on adressing the impact of the tax cuts directly, I'm going to take a look at some of the econmic statistics which have an affect on the overwhelming majority of Americans. Today'topic is unemployment.
Bonddad has had a series of posts looking at the job creation of the Bush economy, some comments have raised questions on the impact of ageing "boomers" and other demographic trends. Based on these questions I decided to take a look into the unemployment numbers and found some not so suprising results.

More below....

The Official Unemployment Rate
presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the sources for all the data presented) stood at 4.2% when King George II, the Holy Emperor of Rovania, took office in January 2001. It began a  rapid slide soon after his coronation , increasing by 1.5% in the King's first year in office.  Yes, the Tech "Bubble" had an impact, as did the horrendous tradgedies on September 11th, 2001, however employment declined rapidly throughout the year and job losses actually slowed to some degree near the end of the year and
through much of 2002. As far as the official stats go, summer 2003 was the lowest point for employment, reaching a level of
6.3% unemployment a full 2.1% swing from January 2001. Slow but reasonably steady job growth has occurred sinsce the summer of 2003 and at the end of 2005 the offical rate stands at only 4.9% unemployment. So far a net loss of .7% for King George.

What does
this mean in terms of prople's lives?
In January 2001, there were 6.1 Million Americans unemployed, in December 2005 this has increased to 7.4 Million. This is only a 21% increase in the number of unemployed Americans, not too bad for the boy who would be King. Excellent performance, in fact, for the modern CEO.

The $64,000 Question

Does the "Official Rate Reflect Reality????"

The short answer is "Of course not, who are we kidding."

The BLS tracks some other handy statistics such as their U6 Rate.  This includes the unemployed, plus those that have recently become discouraged and left the "workforce", plus those that are "Marginally Attached" (e.g. contract workers, temps etc.) plus those that have taken part time work for "Economic Reasons" (e.g. providing food and shelter for their families).

This statistic has only been tracked since 1994 and data quality in the early years looks somewhat suspact, however it doeas provide a different perspective.

Over the reign of King George, this statistic has more or less mirrored the official rate but at the end of 2005 stands at 8.6%.  A 1.2 percentage point increase over the level in Jan 2001.  This translates into an increase of 2.2 Million Unemployed and marginally employed Americans.  Again not bad for the shrubbery currently inhabiting the White House. Boy those supply side curves realy work.

Looking beyond the "Official" Unemployment rates, I decided to create my own statistic.  I looked at the percent of people between the ages of 16-65 who are unemployed in any fashion.  This removes the "workforce participation" status manipulations. As you can see from the chart, 23.8% of Non-institutionalized Americans were not employed in any fashion in January 2001.  At the end of 2005 this has increased about 1.9 percentage points to 25.7%.  On the face, not too bad, but looking at the number of jobs it would take to get back to 23.8%, given today's population in the 16-65 range King George II, his high holiness, comes up 4.1 Million jobs short.  {See bottom Chart)

In his mind I'm sure this is good for cake sales, but for the rest of us not so good.

Next volume, employment by age, and incomes.

Originally posted to BTower on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:03 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this (4.00)
    It's so hard to get a valid unemployment picture. Yet so many people I know both employed and unemployed are thoroughly hating the current job market.
    •  I got suspicious (4.00)
      when Bush opened his mouth, but also when I started to see signficant declines in "Labor Force Participation" among younger workers.  I'm also starting to look at regional data.  Here in Mich we are much worse off than the official stats would suggest.  
      •  Bush's Economic Recovery Bullshit (4.00)
        isn't floating.  

        The main reason is that when you look at federal unemployment figures, it does NOT count folks who are unemployed who decided for one reason or another not to collect unemployment insurance.

        I know of dozens of middle-class workers in the DC area who have been downsized who are not being counted.  And those are just the people I know.  Multiply that by all the folks in the Greater DC area, then by the country at large, and I'd bet that there are several million more eligible, yet unemployed middle class professionals not being counted.

        •  Grammar fix - noun/verb agreement (none)
          When you look at federal unemployment figures, THEY do not...
        •  Discouraged Workers (4.00)
          Some are counted as discouraged workers, others are just removed from "Labor Force Participation".  That why I went to the raw number of employed vs. population.  
        •  Sadly ... it is too much ... (4.00)
          Too often the "bullshit" is floating ...

          For example, this lousy (LOUSY) article this  lousy (LOUSY) article by Sebastian Mallaby entitled "What Democrats Miss in Bushonomics".

          Some extracts:

          Faced with strong growth, full employment and a productivity miracle, Democrats insist that something is profoundly wrong. Responding to President Bush's economic speech on Friday, the Senate's top Democrat complained that "the benefits of economic growth still have not reached many hardworking middle-class families."

          Sorry, but that's only half right. It's true that wages have done badly. But in five of the past six years, average compensation -- that is, wages plus benefits -- has risen faster than inflation, according to the Labor Department's Employment Cost Index. The exception was last year, and that was mainly because high oil prices caused an unexpected inflationary spurt.

          Actual, the 'real' compensations have not nearly as well as Mallaby suggests.  After all, for those insured, health "benefits" have been going up far faster than inflation.  If treading even on benefits, health care is increasing "compensation" significantly in terms of employer dollar cost even though employees' status of living is not changing.  And, in most cases, the health care costs are going up in cost for both employer and employee with lowered coverage from year to year.

          9/11/05, Day 1469, A count worth keeping? Or, Osama Bin Forgotten?

          by besieged by bush on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:48:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  BLS Average Weekly Wages (none)

            Since the BLS only looks at the wages of employed workers, I looked at this two different ways.

            The Blue line is changes in Average Weekly wages (originally in 1982$) so indexed for inflation, for employed people.

            The red line is Changes in Average weekly wages for all people, employed or not.

            So Mallaby is sort of correct, however with a lower percentage employed the argument flies out the window.  In addition, these are averages. see the chart below for a look at the changes between rich and poor.  Oddly enough, average weekly earning were near their highest when unemplyment was at it's highest, hmmm, makes one kinda wonder.

  •  Great stuff (none)
    Do you have a similar graph for actual work force participation? This has been down significantly, I think.

    And be sure that your graphs will find their ways into future diaries! ;-)

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:45:55 AM PST

    •  Now quite up to date yet (4.00)
      but here is one:

    •  As an FYI, those graphs are very easy to produce.. (none)
      Just by visiting The BLS A Tables, clicking on a series and hitting retrieve data and then selecting include graphs.

      You can easily save the graphs directly from the BLS website for use as needed...

      You can also select more formatting options and get difefrent stats, change to a column format and output to csv...

      You have to give the BLS kidos for making their data easily available.

      •  They've done a really nice job (none)
        for the quick hits.  Its a little harder then it used to be when you could just download huge flat files when creating custom analyses, plus an update a couple of days ago has really buried some of the more interesting stats like U6.  Other than that, they like most of the other Gov't agencies except HHS have done a phenomenal job feeding the habit of data freaks like me.
        •  You can still get the flat files... (none)
          I keep a copy of the states "current" file in mysql broken ounto 14 or so tables, for detailed analysis of employment stats from the establishment survey...

          The states file is a much more accurate pisture of the real employment without the birth/death and other adjustments the feds make, as an example the total jobs summed up through the states files is  800k (less) different from the numbers the BLS publishes ans the official employment number, which would make the unemployment higher even moreso.

          Question, where did you find the data to break it out by age group, is that in one of the archive files?

          •  Age Based (none)
            LFPR, plus sex race etc.  can be found as part of the Current pop Suvey Data at

            Lately I haven't been able to unzip the flat files, what am I doing wrong?  Also, how do you like MySQL??

            •  Not sure, do you have pkunzip? (none)
              Thos files are compressed on unix systems, pkunzip will unzip them as far as I know, but the file I have been using is not compressed...

              I get the current file from

              MySQL? I love it, I also have Crystal Reports which will read and analyze the data directly from MySQL through ODBC. I downloaded all the mapping files and then break out the series_id into separate fields so I can then join to the mapping files for reporting and analysis.

              You can run MySQL easily on any current windows release from 2k on...

              Download the Query Browser and the Administrator also,. I also use EMS SQL Manager to assist. For 50 bucks or so you can have a kick ass database of data at your fingertips, Crystal would add about 500 bucks to that for serious reporting and analysis capability, but it really can't be beat when you consider the time and effort it saves and the capability it provides...

              Especially when your processing large amounts of data...

              •  Thanks (none)
                I've been looking at switching over from Access/Excel/Minitab/ but I've got 10yrs of custom scripts, so it'll be a long migration.  Not the most efficient, I know, but in my old job, it kept the IT department out of my shit.  
                I haven't looked at Crystal in about a decade,  I'll give it a whirl.

                Thanks for the link.  The BLS did something Sat morning which took a bunch of series' out of the Java query.

                •  No Problem... (none)
                  So your in IT, me too, I'm a performance & capacity analyst.

                  I used to be a SAS guy for many years, I like Crystal better...

                  Not to say I don't like SAS, but I've been really impressed with CR since I've been using it for the last couple of years...

                  You can donwload a free copy from Business Objects...

                  I would suspect the BLS is doing some rather serious year end updates to the data, they should come back, if not then email them and ask WTF...

                  •  I'm not directly in IT (none)
                    I do reliability, throughput and quality modeling of assembly plants.  I used to drive our IT department nuts.  Unsupported Databases etc.  When they got rid of me,4 IT guys spent a year and a half trying to convert some of my model db's to SQL/SAS.  They gave up, now they pay me to do my old job.  I was even nice enough to explain how this system worked.  

                    I'm looking at migrating away from MS crap, but its going to be a long slow process.  


  •  truth behind the number (none)
    The economic policy institute website tends to do a good job of describing the real economy.  It isn't an organization that republican law makers embrace obviously.  
  •  The unemployment rate can be (none)
    whatever you want it to be if you can manipulate the size of the 'workforce' at will.

    They could make it zero if they wanted to.

    We...okay, you, shouldn't have to do this kind of 'reverse engineering' to get to the truth. With that said, our nation's economic data has been nothing more than an exercise in smoke and mirrors since the Reagan years.

    Great diary! Recommend!

    Parties divide, movements unite.

    by Gegner on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:51:53 AM PST

  •  Gene Sperling (none)
    posted rebuttal to the 'great' economic numbers over at Think Progress.  It's a nice complementary piece to the information here.

    Yeah, I'm trying out this blogging thing, too.

    by MLDB on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:03:02 AM PST

  •  interesting, Like minds I guess... (none)
    I ran the exact same analysis this past weekend, but I just added in those not in the labor force but "want a job" which were the millions of people moved out in 94.

    I ended up also calculating the employment capacity as the workforce + the "want jobs" group minus temps for non-economic reasons.

    And calculating the employed force as "currently employed - temp for non-economic reasons".

    Then dividing it out, I get a true unemployment rate, which stands just above 10%...


    •  Don't know about your region (none)
      but around here the thought that the economy is doing well is absurd.
      •  I'm in Georgia... (none)
        Where by and large our economy is run on retail and building and has been that way for decades...

        I agree, I really think as far as employment the American economy is on a plateau that it will not come off of for many years, if ever given the impending boomer retirement.

        But then I tend to think that the US economy died a long time ago and the current process of print as much money as we can, lend it out to people real cheap to give them the illusion of wealth and everything is ok, is nothing more than an economy in a last ditch effort to prevent the inevitable.

        I mean if its that easy, I don't know why I don't just go buy an island somewhere, make some plates, start up the printing presses, give the money to all of the inhabitants and live happily ever after?

        Of course I would have this little problem of my money not being worth anything other than the paper its printed on outside of my little island paradise, but other than that there is no real difference in my plan and the plan our politicans are currently undertaking to maintain the illusion that everything is hunkey dorey.

  •  I've wondered how they figure (none)
    the unemployment rate. It's not just the number of people on unemployment is it? Because unemployment runs out, often far too soon. Do they keep counting those who are unemployed after they are no longer getting unemployment benefits?

    Or do they count it by how many jobs there are?

  •  Not to be a pain... (none)
    but your one chart is incredibly misleading.  It always bugs me when any % based chart only gives us a fraction of the % involved--your chart covers only the range from 22-25%, compressing all of the change into that one area and therefore creating a misleading impression that the spike in unemployment is more pronounced.

    I'm no fan of Bush & I think his economic policies are dreadful & are the cause of (if not merely a non-mitigating factor relative to) many of the poor employment figures we currently have.  Just call me a statistical purist who is bothered anytime anyone uses stats or graphs to create a misleading picture.

    I feel that a chart is unnecessary in this case.  Just hit people with the actual numbers (4,000,000 less employed than would be if Clinton employment percentages had held for the past 5 years) & it is just as effective.

    I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson [-4.25, -5.33]

    by GTPinNJ on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:38:34 AM PST

    •  Sorry... (none)
      I meant 22-27% is covered by the chart.  I was thinking that it only covered a range of 5% & typed 25% instead of 27%.

      I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson [-4.25, -5.33]

      by GTPinNJ on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:39:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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