Saturday, September 14, 2013

Diminishing Returns

U3 vs. U6

Another 'Defining Moment', courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Discouraged workers:
Discouraged workers are a subset of persons marginally attached to the labor force. The marginally attached are those persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. 

Among the marginally attached, discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify.

Oops, once again, I seem to have gotten ahead of myself - so let's begin once again with the section which follows!!! 

(Please purge any thought of Discouraged Workers from your memory until, well, you'll know when...  And if not, I'll remind you - unless, of course, I forget too, in which case, um, oh, shoot, well never mind, we're mooving on...)

The Really Incredibly EXCELLENT News!!!

On Friday, September 6th, 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the 'BLS') announced that the unemployment rate fell AGAIN!!!

The NEW unemployment rate (as advertised) is now... 7.3% nationally!!!

This is REALLY GOOD NEWS!!!  (CAPS LOCK on to emphasize just exactly how these numbers were reported online, in print, and on the 'air' last week.)

In fact, looking at this singular measurement of employment, you will 'ass-u-me' that things are looking up - things are getting better - everything's going to be OKAY!!!  

After all, look at this chart I just 'lifted' (err, borrowed) from the BLS site charting Unemployment Statistics between 2007 and 2013.  

Who can argue with positive numbers such as these?!?!?!  Certainly NOT a guy typing while in his PJ's would ever DARE call out the BLS on their unemployment tracking methodology - right?  Shoot, they get PAID for what they do, their work must be beyond reproach, correct?  

After all, the unemployment rate in 2010 (10.2%) has now PLUMMETED to 7.3% in 2013!!!  (Brothers, Sisters, boys and girls, can I have an Amen?!?!)  

Employers around the Nation are placing ads online and in local newspaper (the ones still in business) outlets all across America, workers are dusting off their resumes', dry cleaning their best 'go to meeting' clothes and preparing to return to work following YEARS of disappointing employment opportunities.  

Yes, we've 'turned the corner', we've 'turned that unemployment frown upside down', we've gotten our 'collective poop together' and all that rot.  I've waited YEARS to finally deliver some good economic news and gosh golly it sure feels GREAT to be me right now!!!

After all, who doesn't remember those BAD years under Bush when the unemployment rate was soooooo much higher than it is today?  Yeah, and remember after 9/11 when our Economy lurched to a stop and we didn't know from whence our next National Economic or Terrorist Calamity would come?  Sheesh, things were sure BAD back then, weren't they?

As a matter of fact, let me SHOW you how bad things were 'back in the day'.  

Visiting the BLS one more time I change my chart preference to show me unemployment from 2000 - 2013 and I see the following graphical evidence of just how far we've come 'since then'...

Hey, wait just one dang minute!  Someone at the BLS is cooking the books!  This can't be right!?!?!  Can it?  I remember hearing about "HOW BAD IT IS UNDER BUSH" from everyone within earshot of a microphone on TV, RADIO, INTERNET, and BARBER SHOP across America. 

In reality, according to THIS extended version of the unemployment chart for the years 2000-2013, when GW Bush was elected President that unemployment was 4%.  Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, unemployment increased to 6.1% (the RED line above) and then began to drop off again until mid-2007 when the Housing Bubble burst, Chrysler / GM were beginning to go belly-up, and the 'Great Recession' became a not-so-great 'reality'.

Next we had that 'Historic Election' of 2008, and the majority of Americans voted for Hope and Change (as indicated by the obligatory 'Hope and Change' reference above in BLUE) and...  

The unthinkable happened - unemployment continued to increase.  

Yes, the American people sat back, jaws agape, and watched the Unemployment Rate increase from 8% to 10.2% in less than one year.  Granted, no one expected that President Obama could stop the USS Unemployment on a dime, but, as evidenced by the chart(s) above, according to the BLS, slow and steady progress has been made over the past five years.


[Spoiler alert:  If you're a big fan of the President and his economic policies stop reading now - you won't like what comes next...]

The 'NOT SO' Really Excellent News!!!

7.3% - How did the unemployment rate fall to 'GW Bush' levels with the Economy limping along, so many jobs being converted from full-time to part-time (thanks ObamaCare!), and so many Americans continuing to be out-of-work?

Three equally acceptable answers apply at this point:

  • Math, 
  • Sleight of hand, 
  • Or, dare I say...  "Magic"?

According to our friends at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, discouraged workers are those folks who have 'given up' on the idea of looking for work.  In fact, according to the BLS, 312,000 Americans stopped looking for work just between the months of July and August, 2013.  Worse than this, apparently people have been dropping like flies from the workforce for the past five years.  

How do I know this?  The BLS (still ONE too many letters in this abbreviation) told me so, that's how.  The BLS tracks the 'US Labor Force Participation Rate'.  This measurement determines the percentage of the total US population employed at any given time.  

By this measurement, the times are 'a changing', and as we've learned from 44 - not all change is good...

When President Obama was sworn into office, the Labor Participation Rate was 66%.  

It has now fallen to 63.2%, roughly the same rate as in 1978 when...  

Jimmy Carter was President.

Since the BLS has taken it upon itself to let us know that everything's 'just peachy' with the Unemployment situation in the United States, using their own numbers, let's add back into the Unemployment Rate those 'Discouraged Workers' (referenced at the beginning of the post) that they've taken out of the Economy to get our 'official unemployment' down to 7.3%.  

This bit of mathematical 'digit reinsertion' being done - today's REAL Unemployment Rate (U6) is...  

So the next time you wonder how can the Unemployment Rate be so much lower than it was and things don't appear to be getting any better?  

  • Math, 
  • Sleight of hand, 
  • "Magic"?

Feel free to pick any of the above answers as each applies equally well to our current 'Economic Recovery' in the era of Hope and Change.

As for me, this post is finally over, and given the subject matter above, I'm off to take a nice warm shower.  Yes, contrary to popular opinion, I do bathe... 

This is my idea of a shower...  (Shower cap optional)

This is the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' idea of a shower...

Yeah, you'll be wet, you'll be warm, but it'll be a week before you get the 'tangy scent of wee' off you...  

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