Start Focusing on Employment Rather Than Unemployment

Dueling statistics in The Oregonian from former Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts and current GOP Chairman Allen Alley highlight the difference between “boosterism” and “unpleasant reality.” Mr. Roberts cited a first quarter drop in Oregon’s unemployment rate and moderate growth in the states Gross Domestic Product as evidence that Oregon is “leading the way” in economic recovery.

Mr. Alley cites those same statistics over a longer period to demonstrate that Oregon has made only modest gains after a decade of losses and continues to lag both Washington and Oregon – not to mention other major Western States and Texas – in recovery.

So who is right? Neither. I don’t mean that the statistics are wrong. I mean they are looking at the wrong statistics.

While the number of unemployment claims may be of interest to the government class because it represents the number of people currently beholden to the government for their welfare, it fails to provide a true measure of the state’s employment. Mr. Alley correctly points out that the “unemployment” numbers don’t reflect those who have given up looking for a job, those who are working part time because they can’t find a full time job or those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits because they have been out of work for over 99 weeks. Curiously, Oregon state government does not publish actual numbers of unemployed but rather simply the “rate of unemployment.”

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the other hand, provides the actual number of unemployed receiving benefits and they get that number from the State of Oregon. For instance, in March when Oregon was reporting 9.9% unemployment, that represented 198,377 claimants, in April 9.4% unemployment represented 190,557 claimants and in May 9.3% unemployment represented 185,540 claimants. (The Bureau, as of the writing of this column, has not published the June figures.)

Looking at the unemployment numbers would suggest that between March and April, Oregon added 7,820 jobs and that between April and May another 5,017 were added. But you would be wrong and it is precisely why the unemployment numbers should be ignored when talking about the economic health of the state.

Proof of that fact is found in the “employment” statistics also compiled by Oregon’s Department of Employment. The department’s Oregon Labor Market Information System (OLMIS) provides monthly data on the number of people actually employed in Oregon. So when you look at that data, you see that between March and April a paltry 1,100 jobs were created and between April and May only 700 jobs were created. The most recent numbers indicate that only 800 jobs were created between May and June.

The OLMIS database produces not only the gross number of people employed in Oregon but the number of people by category. It is here that the real picture of Oregon’s economic vitality is told. During the recent recession, Oregon’s private sector lost 152,000 jobs while federal, state and local government employment grew. The sectors hit the hardest were the highest paying jobs – Construction, Manufacturing, and Trade and Transportation. And in the aftermath of the recession, these sectors have recovered the least. For instance, the modest growth of 1,300 jobs in May was represented by 600 government jobs and only 700 private sector jobs. Even at that, Oregon’s critical growth sectors – Construction and Manufacturing – lost 600 and 1000 jobs respectively. The job growth of 800 in June found that minimum wage and seasonal jobs in Leisure and Industry increased by 2,200 while Manufacturing shed another 2,000 jobs and Trade and Transportation lost 1,800 jobs.

The decline of quality jobs in Oregon continues. The increase in those who have given up looking for jobs increases.  Meanwhile the focus of state government is on increasing government dependency rather than creating jobs.

Something is terribly wrong in Oregon and Oregon state government under twenty four years of Democrat administrations has failed to find a solution. While Oregon Democrats continue to blame George Bush, the fact of the matter is that other states like Texas, Utah, Arizona, Washington and Colorado are making steady progress while Oregon continues to fall farther behind.

Get over yourselves.

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  • Hobojoe

    There will be no new jobs in Oregon with the Dems in charge adding regs and taxes and fees and nonsense.
    NONE.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Jack Roberts actually said that Oregon is “leading the way” in economic recovery? He actually said that?

    To lead the way, one has to be a leader. The only area in which I think of Oregon as a leader is in the states obsessive commitment to Green Welfare programs. I think our leadership in that area has demonstrated quite well that tilting at windmills is great for the few that are able to milk the system, but not a basis for economic recovery.

    • Anonymous

      Rupert, you wouldn’t know this living in the Valley and all but Portland also leads the nation in bum recruitment. If you like to whiz in doorways or crap on the sidewalk, then Portland wants you.

      • 3H

        wow    nice.  

        • Anonymous

          No, it’s not nice. It is, in fact, very gross. it’s so pleasant to be driving down the street and some bum standing on the sidewalk takes out his equipment and lets go. If that’s your definition of nice…well, your sick beyond being a liberal troll.

          • 3H

            Prefer to see that than the ramblings of someone who channels their inner-adolescent and can’t refrain from childish name-calling.  By the way – you realize that a great number of the homeless are, well, homeless because we have failed them.  Many of them are vets whose illnesses are directly related to their service.  You’re willingness to understand is exemplary.

          • W. Adams

            People often bring up the this statistic and it is accepted as fact.  The homeless population is made up of many Veterans.  Where does this figure come from, what are the actual percentages?  While it is documented that 35% of the “Veterans” receiving treatment are not Veterans and never served, studies by Stanford and other sources, which you can look up on line, and the other statistic is that over 13,000,000 people claim to have served in Vietnam during the last census taken by the US Government, only slightly less than 2,000,000 was the total number of Vietnam era Veterans.   I am a Veteran and I am involved in out reach programs to help Veterans adjust and find jobs.  I also belong to 4 seperate Veteran organizations and we have first hand interaction with many of the “homeless” Veterans, unfortunately a great majority are fraudulent Veterans.  So if you are going to make a statement about “Homeless Veterans” do the research.

          • 3H

            “How many homeless veterans are there?Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.”http://www.nchv.org/background.cfmI did my research, thank you, now lets see yours. Twenty percent seems like a “great number” to me.  Perhaps that’s your quibble, you don’t like the phrase a “great number”.  “Many” might have been more to your liking?  Either way, my statement stands as it is.

          • valley dude

            So what’s your solution? And what is your point anyway? Portland’s economy is a lot better than Springfield’s by any measure. 

  • Bob Clark

    Oregon used to make bank on its timber industry but this has been gone for more than a decade now.  We were told by the “green” folks tourism would replace the loss of the timber industry.  Its more like the only thing Oregon’s green and planning movements are boosting is the growth of moss and dead wood.

  • Parker

    Most of these fools wouldn’t know a job if they saw one.

  • valley dude

    Poor Jack. He dared once again to cite facts that counter Oregon Republican/conservative “core beliefs.” Our economy can’t possibly be recovering faster than the national average because we passed a tax increase on business, therefore this is impossible. He must have the wrong facts. 

    • Anonymous

      So, VD…you have the stats to back up your and Roberts’ claims. Oregon’s only job growth is in government jobs. Good paying private sector jobs are a thing of the past.

      • valley dude

        Roberts provided the statistics in his article. Oregon’s economy is growing faster than the national average, and unemployment has dropped to about the national average. And no, the growth in jobs has not been in government jobs. Those have been shrinking for about a year now.

        I don’t know about you, but I have a good paying private sector job and work with a number of others who do. The growth in good paying jobs has been for those that require higher education or advanced training. Its good paying blue collar jobs that have declined.  Given international competition and automation, we can never get the number of higher paying manufacturing jobs we once had back. Its just not possible. If you want to raise pay for blue collar work you have to unionize or semi-professionalize the service and retail sectors, which is where most of the jobs are for less educated people. This is what Germany has done and it has paid off for them.

      • Jackrobby

        Based on the latest numbers released on Tuesday, over the past year Oregon has created 31,300 new private sector jobs and lost 8,400 government jobs.  Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped from 10.8% last June to 9.4%. 

        I never said we should start signing “Happy Days Are Here Again” but after falling faster and further into this recession, we actually have been recovering more strongly than most of the country for the last year and I think that’s good news.

        • valley person

          Its not good news Jack, because it contradicts the confident assertions previously made by the right wing that Oregon’s tax hike would create the opposite of what has happened. When reality does not conform to belief, then reality has to be challenged, whether we are talking about economics, global warming, or evolution. Its a sorry state of affairs. 

          But recall that when Clinton raised taxes, the same people predicted economic calamity and were mystified when instead we got high growth and a balanced budget. They still can’t explain that one so they ignore it and continue to make the exact same arguments, even after the Bush experience. 

      • valley dude

        So Joelin, Mr Roberts just showed you the stats. Can you admit you were wrong?

        • Anonymous

          I want to see something more than just a couple of months. If this continues for, say, six months you might have something going. It’s not quite time to start hootin’ and a hollerin’ about how great we are here in Massachusetts on the Pacific.

          • valley dude

            Take a look at this chart and compare Oregon to other states by clicking the boxes on the left. Our unemployment rate since the beginning of 2010 has dropped faster than Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, and Mississippi, to name just a few red, right to work states.

            http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z1ebjpgk2654c1_&met_y=unemployment_rate&idim=state:ST410000&dl=en&hl=en&q=oregon+unemployment+rate#ctype=l&strail=false&nselm=h&met_y=unemployment_rate&fdim_y=seasonality:S&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=state&idim=state:ST410000&hl=en&dl=en

            Since the beginning of 2010 is over 18 months my friend. You can admit you were wrong or not…doesn’t matter. You were wrong.

          • Anonymous

            What are you talking about? Oregon’s unemployment rate, according to the chart you reference, has been higher than the national rate since April of 1996. So, big deal, Oregon’s rate has temporarily dropped faster than some other states. In June 2003 our rate was 2.5 points higher than the national rate. Isn’t that wonderful?
            Sorry, I’m not wrong…you are. And so is Jack Roberts with his “Oregon is leading the way” comment. You guys can kiss Kitzhaber’s and Kulongoski’s fannies all you want, but I’d rather deal with the facts. We haven’t been recovering faster than the rest of the country…we still lag the country, not by as much but we’re still behind. 

          • valley dude

            So finally now you seem to accept the fact that Oregon’s economy is recovering faster than the national average. Congratulations.

          • Anonymous

            Well, if you really think I accept the “fact” that Oregon’s economy is recovering faster than the national average, you are dumber than most liberals. Read my reply again. As I pointed out Oregon is, in fact, lagging the national average and has been since April of 1996. What a moron.

          • valley person

            So I congratulated you too soon? OK, I take it back. As you insist, you remain oblivious to reality. But at least you are consistent about it.  Never say die old man.

          • Anonymous

            It looks like I’m not the one ignoring the obvious. Go and look at the graph a little more closely. Or, you can just keep ignoring the truth and being a buffoon. Probably the latter.

          • valley person

            The graph clearly shows Oregon has done better than most states over the past 18 months, confirming Jack Roberts claim that you disputed. And that 18 months is after we raised taxes on some businesses and the wealthy. The period before that, when we were doing worse relative to other states, is when we had lower tax rates.   Doesn’t this just make your head explode?

          • Anonymous

            My head may be exploding but it’s exploding in wonderment at your stupidity. Oregon’s unemployment rate in June 2011 (accoding to your graph) was 9.4 percent. The US unemployment rate in June 2011 was 9.2 percent. Please explain how 9.4 percent is lower than 9.2 percent to anybody but a moron like you. I’d ask if this doesn’t make your head explode but you’d have to understand it first and I don’t think you can understand basic numbers. Look again, very carefully, at the graph, the US line is above the Oregon line consistently since April 1996. Keep on being the dull piecer that you are…it’s the only charm you have.

        • Anonymous

          I want to see something more than just a couple of months. If this continues for, say, six months you might have something going. It’s not quite time to start hootin’ and a hollerin’ about how great we are here in Massachusetts on the Pacific.

  • I think another (maybe even better, I don’t know) way of looking at the unemployment/underemployment problem in Oregon and the US in general is to look at the employment/population ratio. It’s a good way of seeing exactly what percentage of working age persons in Oregon (or the US) actually are participating in the workforce as opposed the number who aren’t. Last I read the E/P ration for Oregon was 58% in 2010, as opposed to 59% for the US in 2010. It would be interesting to see the historical trend in Oregon as the US trend is slightly depressing and could indicate some structural weaknesses in our labor market. Here’s the US chart: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/EMRATIO

    • UPDATE: The US E/P ratio is currently under 59%.

  • Gullyborg

    Another thing to consider is not simply employment, but also incomes.  If all the unemployed folks suddenly got hired flipping burgers or pumping gas for minimum wage, that would be good.  But if half of them got real manufacturing jobs making double or triple minimum wage, that would be better.  What Oregon needs is not only jobs, but jobs that produce wealth instead of merely consuming it.

    • valley dude

      So if Oregon needs jobs that produce wealth, how would everyone working for minimum wage help? Mere survival is not wealth producing. 

      • Anonymous

        VD, that’s basically what Gully said. Where did you learn to read things so they say what you want them to say, rather than say what they really say. Well, I guess it does make it easier to be a troll.

        • valley dude

          Here is what he said: “If all the unemployed folks suddenly got hired flipping burgers or pumping gas for minimum wage, that would be good. ”

          What would be “good” about it? I don’t see any “good” in all the currently unemployed folks in Oregon gaining minimum wage jobs. Its not good for them and its not good for the rest of us because all they could do at that level is live in someone’s basement and eat Ramen noodles. It does nothing for the economy as a whole and does little for them as individuals.

          • Gullyborg

            It would be “good” in that they would be better off earning $8 per hour than earning nothing.  Do you want them to earn nothing?  Because as long as they are unemployed, that is how much they earn.  As I said, it would be BETTER if many of them could earn MORE.  Seriously, are you a moron?

          • valley person

            Seriously, no, I don’t consider myself a “moron.” I do consider people who feel the need to call other people morons to be eligible for the less than intellectually gifted club. Your membership is now in the mail.

            If someone has zero income, the cupboard is bare, and they are offered a starvation wage job, I suppose that individual would be better off than before. But you did not say “good for some individuals.”  And you did not take account of currently unemployed individuals having resources they can draw on that are better than a minimum wage, including unemployment insurance, savings, and loans from friends or relatives. Being temporarily unemployed is fortunately not the end of the world, and for many does not mean they have to flip burgers or starve. And it certainly does not mean they personally are better off with a low wage job.

            Fewer people working at higher wages, with those not working getting income maintenance or re-training to tide them over, is a lot better all the way around than everyone currently unemployed being re-employed at lousy wages. I suppose this is just one of those differences between liberals and conservatives. We think maintaining middle class incomes is important. You apparently do not agree.

          • 3H

            Remember when Conservatives were big on the phrase, “Character counts”?   Well, that was apparently an empty phrase and needs to be discarded.  Not all, of course.  But enough to call it’s sincerity into question.

          • valley person

            Conservatives used to be big on a lot of things that have fallen by the wayside. One of the key ones, dating back to Burke, is don’t make radical changes to long established institutions. Another one is to pay your bills.

            Two new ones are: let’s eliminate Medicare and SSI, and while we are at it let’s try defaulting on the federal debt and see what happens.   

          • Gullyborg

            ah, of course.  it is better for people to be unemployed, earning no money, and drawing a government check while depleting savings, than temporarily take a low paying job.  this explains much about you.

          • valley dude

            No, it explains the choices individuals and society makes. You may think a laid off Intel engineer or nurse or teacher is better off running out and grabbing the first Wallmart greeter job that comes along, but he or she may disagree with you. A minimum wage job, for most people, would not let them avoid depleting savings, and would do nothing to lead them to a job comparable to the one they lost.

            Yes, I think its much better to temporarily draw a government issued check (or direct deposit, which is much better) than to compete with teenagers or unskilled adults for temporary employment far below ones education and training and skill. And guess what Gully? Most of America agrees with me, not you, and has since the time unemployment insurance was established back in the 1930s. If you don’t believe me, file an initiative that eliminates the program and see how far you get.

            Like most modern day conservatives, you not only don’t give a rip about people, you apparently have no understanding of modern economics. When society invests in people’s education and skill development, why would we want to put that to waste filling unskilled jobs, which would only push unskilled labor even further out onto the street? It makes no sense whatsoever.

          • valley dude

            No, it explains the choices individuals and society makes. You may think a laid off Intel engineer or nurse or teacher is better off running out and grabbing the first Wallmart greeter job that comes along, but he or she may disagree with you. A minimum wage job, for most people, would not let them avoid depleting savings, and would do nothing to lead them to a job comparable to the one they lost.

            Yes, I think its much better to temporarily draw a government issued check (or direct deposit, which is much better) than to compete with teenagers or unskilled adults for temporary employment far below ones education and training and skill. And guess what Gully? Most of America agrees with me, not you, and has since the time unemployment insurance was established back in the 1930s. If you don’t believe me, file an initiative that eliminates the program and see how far you get.

            Like most modern day conservatives, you not only don’t give a rip about people, you apparently have no understanding of modern economics. When society invests in people’s education and skill development, why would we want to put that to waste filling unskilled jobs, which would only push unskilled labor even further out onto the street? It makes no sense whatsoever.

          • just doing the math

            Those low paying jobs that some of the posters here are so
            eager for the highly educated and skilled peolple to take,
            are almost always part time and without benefits. Read the
            article in my earlier post as to a solution to long term
            unemployment that one country implemented.

          • just doing the math

            Those low paying jobs that some of the posters here are so
            eager for the highly educated and skilled peolple to take,
            are almost always part time and without benefits. Read the
            article in my earlier post as to a solution to long term
            unemployment that one country implemented.

          • just doing the math

            So, here is an article that may be interesting to read. Part of the
            article summarizes how Germany handled their long term
            unemployment problem, and it was successful.

            http://money.msn.com/investing/time-for-drastic-measures-mirhaydari.aspx?GT1=33002

    • 3H

      And yet, so many Conservatives are against Unions.  Very few businesses will pay wages beyong the bare minimum they can get away with.  Quite a few of those manufacturing jobs, by the way, are Union – or wages are high to compete with Union shops.

      • High wages in and of themselves don’t create wealth, when a minimum wage is imposed upon the market, it causes unemployment and higher prices both of which don’t create wealth, in fact they destroy it. High wages and employment are symptoms of wealth creation through savings and productivity increases.

        • Anonymous

          Well put Mike. The libtards so love their unions and creating minimum wage jobs. It’s so fine that the private sector unions have become so toothless that even in a forced unionization state like Oregon they don’t have the ability to strike. Now, we just need to do something about the government unions.

          • 3H

            Libtards! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.  Wow, never heard THAT one.   Channeling your inner 14 year old are you? 

          • Anonymous

            So, all you’re going to do is call me out for using the term libtard. I guess you have to let stand what I say about your love of unions and minimum wage jobs.

            Actually, I have better terms but they wouldn’t be appropriate on a family blog.

          • 3H

            And you think libtards is appropriate?  You didn’t make a point, you made a childish adhominem attack that got the attention it deserved.   If you want to discuss issues like an adult, then set the standard.  If you want to act like a petualant child, then be prepared to be treated like one.

          • valley dude

            I think Sarah Palin might object to the “tards” part of your unfortunate crack. That you have to result to name calling says a lot about you, not about liberals.

        • just doing the math

          “High wages in and of themselves don’t create wealth, when a minimum wage is imposed upon the market, it causes unemployment and higher prices both of which don’t create wealth, in fact they destroy it.”

          You have to be kidding. It is just common sense that an individual with a high
          income is more pre-disposed and able to create for themselves more wealth
          than someone making a minimum wage. Those with high incomes can choose
          whether to spend themselves into debt or create their own wealth. People with
          higher incomes can spend AND invest which leads to productivity increases
          and more jobs.

        • 3H

          LOL.. 1) Your argument is with Gullyborg – he was talking about the benefits of high wage jobs.  2) I was talking about Union membership, and I didn’t say anything about the minimum wage. 

        • 3H

          “High wages and employment are symptoms of wealth creation through savings and productivity increases.”

          Yes, that has been proven by the success of Walmart. 

        • valley dude

          “High wages in and of themselves don’t create wealth”

          Yeah, actually they do. High wages drive more spending which raises demand which raises production, distribution, and tertiary economic activity.

          Minimum wages do not cause higher unemployment. This has been studies to death. Read up on it.

          High wages are in large part due to education, training, and labor organizing.  Many if not most business owners do everything they can to pay their help as little as possible so they can keep more. Productivity gains go to the owner unless the employee can gain some leverage, either by being too good to do without or by being organized.

  • Aristotle

    Huss, why don’t YOU get over YOURSELF?

    What have you ever done the conservative agenda, other than just sit at some computer somewhere (probably out of state) and pontificate?

    Jack Roberts wrote an apologia for failed policies and Allen Alley called him out. Gave him a good old fashioned behind-the-woodshed whippin’. It was called for, and it wasn’t just about some ridiculous fine point about labor statistics.

    Allen Alley has stepped up to lead the party. What have you done?

    Nada.

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