Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The New Norm


Meet Norm!

"Hi Norm!"
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Oh, come on guys, this is the OLD Norm! 

"YOU guys in the MoosRoom Graphics Department...  You're all FIRED!!!" 

Oops, probably shouldn't joke about this, given the topic of today's post.

Onward, ever onward!

We're looking for the NEW Norm!  I met the 'above' Norm during the 1980's (during the 'really bad' Reagan years).  Now there's a NEW Norm we need to spend some quality time with. 

Ah, here he is now...
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               The NEW Norm!!!

Hmm, I'm thinking the OLD Norm looked a little happier but maybe that's because he was holding his beer, vs. his head.  Ah, what the heck, it's 2011!  Out with the old and in with the new, right?!?! 


As we plod through the third-year of the Obama Adminstration I have discovered why 'Norm' looks 'different' than he used to. 

Is it because?:

1.  Under GW Bush the Annual Deficit was a WHOPPING $600+Billion
2.  Under GW Bush the Average Unemployment was 5.4%
3.  Under GW Bush the Percent of Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks averaged less than 10%  

We'll re-visit each of these in a moment, but let's just say that 'Norm' is different than he / it used to be, and the Norm we knew / loved / hated ain't coming back any time soon.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, there's a NEW Norm in town.  This one brought to you by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

(MOTTO:  "Somebody's got to track this stuff, it might as well be us, 'cause it's hard to sound 'Cool' when you gots 'Statistics' is in your Bureau's Title").

So what has the Bureau of Labor Statistics done to change the 'Norm'?  Keep reading, you're gonna LIKE it (assuming that you ALSO like watching YouTube videos of people riding their bikes into parked cars, off ski ramps, and into swimming pools filled with hungry Pirahana fish.)...

Changed how it measures long-term unemployment!

(a.k.a.:  The NEW Norm!)  Please, no cheap shots about how Barack Obama and 'Change' have come to Washington - although having said this, I see that I've already GONE there - sorry

Yes, according to a deliriously surreal article found at USAToday.com:

Citing what it calls "an unprecedented rise" in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless.

The change is a sign that bureau officials "are afraid that a cap of two years may be 'understating the true average duration' — but they won't know by how much until they raise the upper limit," says Linda Barrington, an economist who directs the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Likening recessionary unemployment spikes in recent decades to a storm at sea, she says, "The waves are getting higher, and we want to understand the intricacies of how they're made up."
Although "this feels like something we've not experienced" since the Great Depression, she says, economists need more information to be sure.

The change will not affect how the unemployed are counted or the unemployment rate is computed nor how long those eligible for unemployment benefits receive them. Analysts call the move a sign of the times.

"We realize more and more people are unemployed longer than 99 weeks, so we need to break it down further," Standish says.

Long-term unemployment has grown markedly over the past few years. The BLS says the average length of unemployment has increased from 29.4 weeks in November 2009 to 34.5 weeks last month. Nearly 10% of the USA's 15.1 million jobless have been looking for work for two years or more.
Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says most economists expect hiring to remain sluggish in 2011 before improving in 2012.  [Question for ya:  Didn't most highly-trained economists predict that in 2009 we'd break from the sluggish hiring of 2008?  I remember reading it somewhere / everywhere back then.]

Yes, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Stats, you know, THOSE guys with pocket-protectors, thick black glasses, and those original Texas Instruments calculators with red LED displays) has increased the number of weeks which you can be counted as 'Unemployed' because...

Unemployment is 'different' now than it has been for the past 33 years...

I take no joy in reporting this, the 'is what it is' News.  (Or perhaps 'Moos', if you prefer.) 

You can find the entire article here:  USATODAY.COM

Oops, before I forget, here is the listing of the really BAD things under President GW Bush and where we stand in each of them - today:

1.  Under GW Bush the Highest Annual Deficit was a WHOPPING $600+Billion?
     President Obama's Deficit for FY 2010 was $1.29 Trillion (Source DailyFinance.com)
2.  Under GW Bush the Average Unemployment was 5.4%?
     President Obama's Unemployment rate is currently 8.8% (Source BLS)
3.  Under GW Bush the Percent of Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks averaged less than 10%?
     President Obama's Long-Term Unemployment rate is 42% as of December 2010 (Source USA Today.com)

Given the numbers above, I believe that we can conclude that the policies of President Barack Obama are, on average, TWICE as effective guiding our country's economy as President Bush's policies were. 

Unfortunately, he has accelerated the speed of our country's economic decline through his, um, policies.  Maybe if he just hired a few more of them Nobel-Prize Winning scholars, it'd all be better? 

I end the post as I began it:  The new NORM 
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