General Chaos

Lies, damn lies, and unemployment statistics

US jobs market continues steady pick-up. Business: US unemployment in November fell to its lowest level since March, official figures showed today. [Guardian Unlimited]

The Guardian story puts an upbeat spin on things; but other views of the data were less than rosy.

And the numbers here don't add up for some reason. Okay, unemployment numbers dipped a tenth of a percent on the creation of 57,000 jobs. Obviously, the numbers were aided by more people dropping out of the “workforce” as their benefits ended and they gave up looking for work.

That would place the entirety of the US “workforce” at 57 million people. That's, erm, only 20% of the US population. So, if only 54 million (94.1% of the “workforce”) are “employed”…

If we were to take only the US population between 18 and 65 (about 173 million), that would still be only 31% of adults in the US are employed.

Okay, even if only half of the adult-age people in the US were in the workforce, how does 62% of them having jobs equal only 5.9% unemployment?

Let's look at those numbers again: there are 173 million adults betweek 18 and 65 in the US. Only 54 million are on employers' payrolls, based on the survey numbers.

So, what's the real unemployment rate? And what's the underemployment rate–the rate of people taking jobs significantly below their wages prior to unemployment?

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