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Is the "official" unemployment rate actually official bulls*it?

Come with me below the fold...

The official unemployment rate excludes lots and lots of the real unemployed.

Part-Time Workers Mask Unemployment Woes
Published: July 14, 2009
In California and a handful of other states, one out of every five people who would like to be working full time is not now doing so.

After Richard Smith, 58, was laid off from jobs at two carmakers, he moved to Charlotte, N.C., and found only part-time work. He makes $9.50 an hour repairing clubs at a Golf Galaxy store.

It is a startling sign of the pain that the Great Recession is inflicting, and it is largely missed by the official, oft-repeated statistics on unemployment. The national unemployment rate has risen to 9.5 percent, the highest level in more than a quarter-century. Yet it still excludes all those who have given up looking for a job and those part-time workers who want to be working full time.

Include them — as the Labor Department does when calculating its broadest measure of the job market — and the rate reached 23.5 percent in Oregon this spring, according to a New York Times analysis of state-by-state data. It was 21.5 percent in both Michigan and Rhode Island and 20.3 percent in California. In Tennessee, Nevada and several other states that have relied heavily on manufacturing or housing, the rate was just under 20 percent this spring and may have since surpassed it.

Other people not considered part of the labor force include prisoners, people confined to nursing homes, members of the Armed Forces on active duty, homemakers, students and retired persons.

Thus, the official unemployment rate excludes all sorts of categories of people.  

Therefore, the "official" unemployment rate is really a lie.

Oh, wait, if you do some digging you may find that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does produce "alternative measures."  But is it publicized beyond being buried on a government site far removed from access or knowledge of the average adult?

Not as far as I know.

Does the average adult know this site exists?

Almost certainly not.

Would the average person be able to read, interpret and glean the significance of the spreadsheet if they DID stumble upon it?

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  I tend to doubt it.

The spreadsheet:

Forget even the part-time workers for the moment.  Unemployed means, and most people take it to mean, just what it says:


Originally posted to dov12348 on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:29 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jgtidd, SpiffPeters, JG in MD, Kristina40

    Only dead fish go with the flow.

    by dov12348 on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:29:37 AM PDT

    •  I don't count (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've been in some combination of school and freelancing for the past 3 years.

      I'm done with school and very unemployed, since I relocated and freelance work is basically dead right now.

      I don't count in anyone's statistics. U3 sucks as a measure...U6 is mostly good, but still has issues.

      Thanks for the diary. It is critical to know that almost 20% of the country is experiencing employment problems of some sort right now.

      It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. -RWE

      by Gravedugger on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:51:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The traditional media are dumb (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The bls reports all measures of unemployment each month and the media decides to publish just U-3 (although that is changing).  I would also argue that in many instances U-3 is a fair judge of the unemployment rate, as historically U-6 stayed at a near constant range above U-3.  What we have now are extraordinary economic circumstances that have made U-6 much more reflective of the health of the labor market and have made U-3 somewhat irrelevant.  Regardless of what U-3 does, until U-6 shrinks back towards its historic range (I know its a short history) the labor market will be imperiled.

    •  Tradtional, corporate media (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The most accessible media outlets, whether televised, radio or newsprint, are all owned and operated by media conglomerates.

      While I am not suggesting collusion by these main players, there does exist an environment that is counter to the traditional role of the fourth estate. The class, status, or background of the decision makers are not dissimilar. Many have 'elite' academic backgrounds (Ivy league).

      In essence, those that decide what gets published are essentially fellow travelers.

      The fourth estate has ceased to serve its constituents faithfully.

      With leaders like Reid and Pelosi, who needs enemies?

      by SpiffPeters on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:55:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The article this diary is based on is "trad med" - NYTimes. It was reprinted this AM in my Dallas paper, too.

      "People who have what they want are fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it." Ogden Nash (on universal health care?)

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 09:34:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  alternative is apples to oranges (0+ / 0-)

    Oh, come on. The people who really pay attention to these numbers and use them for policy decisions know very well what these numbers mean and about the different levels of unemployment. They're just an index, in the way that the Dow is an index of the value of the stock market. Do you know what "8547 points" means? No, it's just a number that goes up and down. What matters about the media's treatment of unemployment is mostly that they report the trends. Right now the trend is that unemployment is getting worse, although not at the rate it was several months ago. Who cares what the actual number is?

    Also, you can't use U-6 in general, since its records don't go nearly as far back as U-3, so you can't very well compare current numbers to the past. (Even U-3 isn't that good, since the nature of the workforce has changed a lot over the last 50 years.)

    car wreck : car insurance :: climate wreck : climate insurance

    by HarlanNY on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:40:20 AM PDT

    •  Oh, ok. So the "unemployment rate" (0+ / 0-)

      ...was never meant for public consumption, then.

      Funny how everyone talks about it as though they know what it means, though.

      Labor Stat Bureaucrat:  "They do?  Oooops!"

      Only dead fish go with the flow.

      by dov12348 on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 08:54:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, dov12348

    I can see not including prisoners, homemakers (assuming they aren't forced into it when they'd rather be working, just can't find a job), students, and retired people.  People confined to a nursing home should probably simply be people unemployable due to disability.  But I don't see any reason not to consider members of the Armed Forces on active duty both part of the labor force and employed.  

  •  I detect a lack of interest in... (0+ / 0-)

    ...the "unemployment rate" at kos.  Sad.

    Unless everybody went to lunch.

    Californians, etc.: Unless everybody went out for brunch.

    Hawaiians, etc.:  Unless everyone went out for breakfast.

    To lots of others: I understand you're still sleeping.

    Only dead fish go with the flow.

    by dov12348 on Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 09:39:54 AM PDT

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