Cooking the Employment Numbers for Fun and Profit

The unemployment numbers were down Friday, more than economists thought they would be. The media is trumpeting this as a sure win for Obama and a reason he will or should get another term in the White House.

But the real story here is that the unemployment rate dropped because people gave up looking for full time jobs and settled for part-time work. Bloomberg’s Businessweek reported it under the headline, “More Americans Working Part-Time; Unemployment Declines.” The story interviewed economics researcher, Neil Dutta:

“It’s an employment recovery built on thin ice,” said Dutta. “If there was an immediate downturn or even a weakness heading into the end of the year, who’s going to be the first one to go?” The jump in employees who are unable to find full-time jobs is what one would expect in an economy that is growing less than 2 percent at an annual rate, Dutta said.

Also, there are plenty of measures of unemployment that show our situation is worse. Economist, John Lott wrote that, “the government’s broader measure of unemployment has remained unchanged at 14.7 percent (the so-called U6 measure), still well above 14.2% rate when Obama became president.”

In fact, the majority of new jobs during the Obama “recovery” have been low-paying, according to a report by The National Employment Law Project:

Three-fifths of all jobs lost during the recession paid middle-income wages, while roughly three-fifths of new jobs created during the economic recovery pay low wages, NELP found. Both economic forces and government budget cuts are causing this deficit of good jobs, according to the study.

Three notoriously low-paying industries — food services, retail, and employment services — account for 43 percent of all jobs created during the economic recovery, while better-paying industries have failed to recover, according to NELP. The median retail worker gets paid $11 per hour, the median food service worker gets paid $10 per hour and the median waiter or waitress gets paid just $7.69 per hour, according to the study.

If this is the “recovery” that Obama is going to boast about, I don’t think informed voters are going to be that impressed. Of course the problem is that media is trying to flash headlines about the great jobs recovery and the talking heads are going to spin it as much as possible.

Some have suggested that the numbers were doctored to make Obama look good. Until someone finds real evidence of that, we should stay away from that suggestion. If Obama supporters had faked the numbers, they would have tried to make Obama look better than he does. By accusing the numbers of being faked, we make it look plausible for Liberals to claim that the numbers really do signify economic good news.

But they are not good news. They show a hurting economy that still lacks full-time jobs and still lacks work that will provide a living wage for employees. The economy is still hurting and the numbers prove it.