In the mid-1970’s when the US inflation rate was double-digits, an unnamed administration source1 in the post-Nixon Ford administration explained it simply, “The reason we have inflation is that we measure it. If we didn’t track it, there would be no inflation.” I’ve always admired that idea. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.
Take, for instance, the big news that 103,000 jobs were created last month and our unemployment rate has dropped four tenths of one percent (.004) to the lowest level since spring of 2009. Wow. Those Republicans sure do work fast. Sounds like happy times are here again. The greatest depression since Prozac must be over. Time to celebrate, right?
Maybe, as long as you aren’t tracking the numbers. If you do, it is pretty depressing.
Because of new people entering the workforce, in a typical month, it takes at about 150,000 new jobs just to break even on the unemployment rate. So how did 103,000 new jobs in December create such a decline in the rate when it seems as if it should have gone up? 434,000 people gave up looking for work last month.
All we need to do is keep up this “job growth” until 2016 or so and get another 7.2 million unemployed to give up and drop out of the workforce – that’s the number of jobs lost during the Bush-now-Obama recession.
These numbers are just estimates, of course. They are based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) monthly Current Population Survey (tracking of 60,000 households), overlaying Census data, multiplying it all by the winning Illinois Lotto number, just kidding, projecting the data and having it reviewed by politicians. Most economists project the real unemployment rate at about double the official rate – estimates range from 16.5-22.5%. Why? It depends on what definition you use for “unemployment.”
Generally, people, as defined as citizens over 16 and not on active military duty, disabled, in jail, a nursing home or a mental heath facility, who have a job, are employed. People who are jobless and actively looking for a job are unemployed. And people without jobs and not looking are not in the labor force. Seems tidy, doesn’t it? It isn’t.
- If the only the work you can get is part-time or temping, guess what? You are employed.
- If you haven’t been able to find a job, part-time or full, so you are helping out with a family business without pay while looking for a job, you are employed.
- If, for instance, you stood on the corner of Home Depot every day, but were only picked up once for a couple of hours of work at less than minimum wage, you are employed.
- Let’s say you were fired on Tuesday and the BLS survey was on Friday, you are employed.
- If you had a job, but couldn’t work because you had the flu, or you had to take care of your kid, or your boss wanted sex and you didn’t, a bandsaw at work cut your arm off, or you sold ice cream and it snowed all week, or a family member was dying, so you couldn’t work and didn’t get paid, you are employed.
- If, for instance, you are bat-shit crazy, but your state doesn’t have mental health facilities and is tired of having you in jail, you’ve applied for disability and are waiting the three years it takes to get turned down, you, no surprise here, aren’t unemployed. You aren’t in the workforce.
- If, for instance, you don’t have a job, looked every day at want ads2, didn’t find anything at all or, at least, nothing suitable, and didn’t apply during December when no one is hiring in your profession anyway, you’re not in the workforce.
- Let’s say you are in your final year of Harvard law. You are waiting tables for tips to stay in school and hoping to land a job with a big New York law firm – you are employed.
- If you are actively looking for a job, but as a fallback, you are trying to create a business cutting grass, shining shoes or launching that next killer internet company. You haven’t made a dime, but you are employed.
- Let’s say your plant was shut down “temporarily” and you are expecting a call back, but it hasn’t come. You are employed.
- If, for instance, you got laid off, received some separation money that was enough to get by for a few months, you posted your resume everywhere you could and were going to your local tech school to get re-trained so you, a former IT manager, could qualify for a job flipping hamburgers. You aren’t in the workforce.
- If, for instance, you are one of the 99ers – one of the seven million US citizens who been unemployed, have looked for a job for more than 99 weeks, haven’t found one and have exhausted all their unemployment benefits, including all the extensions that get bought, sold and filibustered in Congress. You and all seven million of your fellow 99ers, aren’t in the workforce.
All to say, the real unemployment rate didn’t go down last month.
1 Unnamed Administration Source: prior to Ted Turner inventing 24-7 cable news, which morphed into 24-7 speculation about news or what potentially could be news if it were to actually happen, we were required to read and talk about the news ourselves3. Way back then, journalists4, were occasionally allowed5 to quote an“unnamed administration source” if that source wished to remain anonymous – that is how we existed before Wikilleaks.
3 Reading: it really wasn’t as difficult as it sounds. Similar in many ways to using an iPad, except that the words and photos were printed on paper, delivered to your door each morning, there was no search and crack pots were not allowed to comment. I know, it sounds strange and that’s why Al Gore came up with the internets.
4Journalist (aka: 4th estate, liberal press, etc.): Archaic. Someone who, in the old days, before truth lost favor with advertisers, used to “collect and disseminate information about current events, people, trends, and issues. Reporters were one type of journalist. They created reports as a profession for broadcast or publication in mass media such as newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and documentary film. Reporters found sources for their work, their reports could be either spoken or written, and they were expected to report in the most objective and unbiased way to serve the public good.”
5 Allowed: ridiculously inefficient as it might sound, teams of people used to review and verify what we used to call, “facts”6 before the stories were blurted out as “breaking news” to live forever in Google as “truth.”7 Who would just make stuff up?
7 Truth: Archaic. According to Dictionary.com, “the true or actual state of a matter; conformity with fact or reality; a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like; actuality or actual existence; an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude; honesty; integrity; truthfulness; ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience: the basic truths of life; agreement with a standard or original; accuracy, as of position or adjustment.” More commonly accepted: anything stated or written by liberals to brainwash God-fearing people with the goal of destroying our way of life and transforming America into a gun-controlled, fascio-socialism state.