[FoRK] Jobs picture redux, or, when the ugly truth slips out
rst at ai.mit.edu
rst at ai.mit.edu
Mon Mar 15 20:18:03 PST 2004
J. Andrew Rogers writes:
> The job situation and economy isn't dire. Pretty boring actually, in a
> vaguely uptrending sort of way. The number of people who removed
> themselves from the employment pool because they couldn't find work has
> stayed constant over the last year , and to clear up a matter, these
> people are included as "unemployed" persons long after their
> government/unemployment benefits run out regardless of whether or not
> they are looking for a job.
Half right. The official summary, at bls.gov, the site to
which you are officiously referring people, at
briefly explains that:
In February, about 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to
the labor force, about the same as a year earlier. (Data are not
seasonally adjusted.) These individuals wanted and were available
to work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months.
That agrees with you so far. However:
They were not counted as unemployed, however, because they did not
actively search for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Counting them as unemployed would raise the reported unemployment rate
quite a bit, to 6.7%; note that this still does not count, for
example, the 1.3 million people who are working part time because they
want full time work and can't find it.
> People looking for work are actually
> finding it now.
Well, then, many fewer people must be looking for work. Total nonfarm
payroll employment during Dubya's term in office has famously dropped
by about a couple million jobs -- something that hasn't happened
during any Presidential term since Hoover. And a significant increase
would have been required simply to keep pace with population growth.
(Data via http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.toc.htm -- the
complete set, including custom mix-and-match historical charts. Hours
> If you want to know about the various sources and
> statistical models that are used, read the reports. A perverse waste of
> time, but vaguely interesting.
Oh, I don't know about that. It's good to do a check on the people
handing out secondhand reports about what the surveys say. *All* of
> The unemployment figure that is normally
> published comes from surveying individuals, but the same data for most
> of the figures are also derived from other indirect sources in parallel.
There you go again. The most widely cited unemployment figure is from
a survey of employers. There is a separate survey of households,
which has been widely flogged lately by right-wing partisans because
the picture it presents is not quite as bleak as the numbers coming
out of the payroll survey -- but Alan Greenspan, of all people, has
publicly called them to task for it, as that survey is intrinsically
less reliable. See
which has an excerpt from a New York Times article, with quotes
directly from Greenspan.
> You can make a lot of hay by choosing which statistical source you want
> to use for which particular statistical data point.
> So I am to take your third-hand regurgitated media propaganda as gospel
> truth, but when I point out that there are significant discrepancies
> between that position and the underlying documents of authority upon
> which your dubious source is nominally based, that's just handwaving or
In the future, you might want to point out the discrepancies
explicitly, with direct quotes from both sources. It's not that hard,
and it's a lot more informative for your readers.
Just a thought.
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