Mud Pies from the Labor Department

Member Group : Reflections

The funny thing about the Labor Department’s monthly unemployment report isthat the number-crunching bureaucrats act like they’re delivering high caratdiamonds when the real worth of what they’re reporting is closer to the valueof a mud pie.

First,a college graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering who gets a
$90,000job in his field is counted exactly the same in the government’s
unemployment report as a biomedical engineering graduate who can’t find a job and is working weekends as a bus boy at Applebee’s.

Or as the PBS Newshour succinctly stated it, "If you only worked one hour inthe past week, you’re counted as officially employed."

Given the large number of part-timers who are currently looking for full timework and unable to find a job, that flaw alone by the Labor Department of
puttingpart-timers in the "employed" column makes their monthly unemployment
statistic meaningless.

Anestimated 50 percent of young college graduates are currently either jobless
orsignificantly underemployed in positions that don’t utilize their skills and

Second,if a guy loses his $150,000 job and he and his previously stay-at-home
wifeeach get part-time jobs paying $25,000, the Labor Department counts that as
jobgrowth, two jobs rather than one, a clear indication that job creation
is expanding.

Ifthey can’t make ends meet, there’s even more job growth if their kid gets
aSaturday job drying cars at the local car wash.

Ifanother kid in the family ends up selling apples on the street corner, that’s
a400% jump in the number of jobs in the economy the way the Labor Department figures it, even though everyone in the family is financially worse off.

Third,if everyone in the aforementioned family throws in the towel, quits
working,quits looking for work, and just goes on the dole, then no one is counted as unemployed by the Labor Department. Both the jobless household and theinitially lost $150,000 job simply vanish from the government’s calculationsand there’s nothing in the headlines to indicate that the economy is failing to provide employment for that family.

The share of adults in the labor force, the participation rate, is now at a30-year low. If the participation rate today was the same as just four yearsago, the unemployment rate would currently be 11 percent.

And the dropping out continues, with today’s unemployed workers still more likely to quit looking than find a job.

The front page story from Labor’s Department is that the nation’s jobless rate
hadsuddenly dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest
levelsince January 2009, an official jobless falling below 8.0 percent for the
firsttime since President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Belowthe headlines, there are these two sentences in the Labor Department’s latest unemployment report: "The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons,sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers, rose from 8.0 million in August to 8.6 million in September. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to findfull-time work."

That’s a 600,000 jump in "involuntary part-time workers" in September and notone of these people is included in 7.8 percent unemployment number.

In order to produce a more accurate picture of how many jobs the economy has
togenerate in order to get to full employment, how hard would it be for thestaffers in the Labor Department to proportionately include these involuntary part-timers in the jobless number? How hard is it to combine a work shortage of20 hours per week each for two people and get 40 hours?

Withobvious and easy to fix flaws in the Labor Department’s methodology, why
evenpretend to accuracy with a decimal point — 7.8 percent instead of 7.7 or 7.9?

Bottom line? "The number of unemployed persons in September was 12.1
million,"reported the Labor Department. Again, skip the decimal point. The number was 23 million if the involuntary part-timers and the unemployed who’ve given up looking for work are included, and that’s not counting the millions who dropped to lower paying jobs, or the growing number of involuntary house husbands, or any of those who are behind bars or otherwise institutionalized in colleges,universities, trade schools or mental facilities because of the lousy job market.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. KennethSimon
professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Radlph R. Reiland
Phone: 412-527-2199
E-mail: [email protected]