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Sunday, June 05, 2005


Statistics Can Lie

The May unemployment figures are out -- what a disappointment! After the outlook seemed to be really on the upswing in April, May exhibited a total job growth of 78,000. Considering that there are about 150,000 new entrants into the labor market each month, that's a "growth" of minus 72,000. Along with the release of these figures, the government crowed that the unemployment rate actually declined a tenth of a percentage point.

Leaping layoffs, Batman, how can that be?

Well, Robin, it merely proves that the method of tracking the unemployment rate has little connection to the true jobs picture!

For years, those of us working in the field of unemployment have been nagging that government statistics consistently under-state the real situation.

The unemployment rate is based on workers standing in line for benefits. It fails to account for those who have no benefits (new entrants, workers whose benefits have been exhausted, the formerly self-employed who do not qualify, and the disabled on medical leave). What about the thousands who have simply given up? What about the millions who are underemployed in lower skilled and temporary positions which were the only openings they could find?

The effort to put a positive spin on employment figures is motivated by politics, public relations concerns, and a desire to look positive and confident to inspire the citizenry. Where is there any genuine concern for the destruction this causes to the psyches of the unemployed who become ever more convinced that they are failures -- surely only a loser can't find work in an expanding economy!

We need honesty, tax incentives to hire long term displaced workers, and increased funding for vocational education, retraining, and re-entry support.

Jumping jobless, Batman. What are we going to do?

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