The real jobless rate - 21%?

‘Official’ job numbers don’t tell the whole story


So let’s take a deeper dive past the so-called “headline” number. The BLS publishes various series of jobs data every month, based on two separate surveys. The “household” survey, which covers only 60,000 households a month, asks people whether they have a job, or are looking for a job, or have given up, or gone back to school, or retired.

The problem starts with the official definition of who is unemployed. For example, if you’ve decided that you’re never going to find a job like the one you lost, and you go back to school to get retrained, you’re not in the work force, and you're not unemployed. Likewise, if you’re in your late 50s, and every potential employer tells you you’re just too old or overqualified, you may give up looking and hope your savings will carry you over until you can collect Social Security. In that case, you’re considered “retired” — again, not unemployed.


There are plenty of economists and analysts who take issue with the “official” number. John Williams, who runs a Web site called Shadow Government Statistics, does his own calculations each month that adjusts U-6 to include an estimate of the number of “long-term” discouraged workers - those who have been in that category for more than a year - and fall off the BLS radar. By his count, the unemployment rate hit 21.4 percent last month.

Comment: Check the website out (link above).

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