More Unemployment Myths

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

There are lies, damned lies and statistics

– Mark Twain

An article in the Arizona Republic declared in bold headlines: “Chances of finding a job rise in the Western states.  I’m never quite sure whether these reporters lack a fundamental understanding of mathematics or they are just so intent on finding something positive in the dismal “Obama recovery” that they seize on just anything, including smoke and mirrors.  The article goes on to state:

“The odds of finding work in the Western states nearly matched the national average in December, nearly ending a six-year run of tougher prospects for the jobless in the West, federal data shows.

“There were 2.6 people officially unemployed in December for every posted job opening in the 13 states that make up the West, including Alaska and Hawaii.”

Clever those reporters.  Note the two disclaimers that otherwise pass for a factual statement – “federal data shows” and “officially unemployed.”

The reporter makes reference to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).  Curiously, the survey does not make any comparison of job openings and unemployment – this is the reporter’s creation solely and only.  The JOLTS report does make a comparison to the number of those employed versus the number of jobs available (the sum of current employment plus the number of job openings) and creates a percentage of jobs not yet filled – that number has been hovering around 2.8 percent for most of 2013 and thus does not paint a picture of an improving economy.  Perhaps that is why the reporter made reference to “federal data” as opposed to a federal report thus giving it the appearance of reliable data when it is not.

No, to create the number referenced, the reporter took the number of job openings from JOLTS and divided it into the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment data.  The problem there – and probably the reason that the BLS doesn’t produce such a number itself – is that the unemployment numbers are pointless.  They do not reflect the number of people unemployed – they reflect the number of people receiving welfare in the form of unemployment payments.  Even President Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters (apologists) acknowledge that the unemployment numbers, and particularly the unemployment percentages are bogus.  Perhaps that is why the reporter referred to the “officially unemployed” rather than those actually unemployed.  Apparently, unless you are included in the “official unemployment” statistics you aren’t really unemployed.  I guess you are – well, you are – oh, hell, I don’t know – resting, retired, vacationing, absent minded?  That may work for the reporter and the print media but for the millions of people still without work or the prospect of work under the “Obama recovery” it still feels like unemployment.

A July 2013 article in FORBES put the lie to the “officially unemployed” numbers:

“First, when the latest jobs report was released on Friday morning. It was generally heralded as a good report — for good reason. According to initial Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, the U.S. gained nearly 200,000 jobs in June, and another 70,000 jobs appear to have been discovered in April and May. As a result, the nation’s official unemployment rate held steady at 7.6%; not great, but miles better than the 10% unemployment rate that the U.S. flirted with between 2009 and 2010.

“But the “official” unemployment rate doesn’t count men and women like G. — discouraged workers who have settled for part-time jobs or have given up looking altogether. Tracking those individuals, under what’s called the “U-6″ rate, gives a very different measure of the nation’s unemployment rate: 14.3%.”

So I checked the “U-6” report for December 2013 to try to get a more accurate figure than that used by the reporter.  It was 13.7 percent (unchanged from the previous month) compared to the 6.7 percent for the BLS “unemployment rate.”  Recalculating the reporters assertion that there were a mere 2.6 people for each job opening, to a more accurate number reveals that there were at least 5.5 people for each job opening – hardly a sign of robust recovery or even of hope that the misery index imposed by Mr. Obama and his policies will recede any time soon for the working men and women of America.

For the man who is the principal cause of the dismal job market and thus the repression of average income for working families to announce that his focus will now be on “income disparity” would be akin to Richard Nixon announcing – post-Watergate – that his focus would be on restoring integrity to the Office of the President.