The Unemployment Rate Bait-and-Switch

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been calculating the Unemployment Rate every month since January 1948. During Bill Clinton’s first year in office, his administration cooked up a new category called Discouraged Workers (jobless American who want work, but have stopped looking because the job market is so bad). Since January 1994, the BLS has been EXCLUDING these jobless workers from the official Unemployment Rate.

BLS Compl Hist Unemployment Rate 1948 to 2013

Common sense would dictate that Discouraged Workers be tracked as a subset of the Unemployed, not excluded like they were somehow not unemployed anymore. But since when do Democrats ever use common sense? Clinton’s statistical chicanery has had a really screwy side-effect that Democrats exploit to their political benefit:

  • When the economy is BAD, more people become discouraged enough to quit looking so the BLS moves them from Unemployed to Discouraged. Net result: The Unemployment Rate goes DOWN.
  • When the economy IMPROVES, more people become encouraged enough to start looking for work again so the BLS moves them from Discouraged to Unemployed. Net result: The Unemployment Rate goes UP.

This allows the Lamestream Media to spin the monthly jobless reports in a way that most benefits Democrats. Since it’s been Obama in the Oval Office during our latest period of historically bad joblessness, the MSM trumpets each “improved” Unemployment Rate report as yet another sign of Teh Won’s wonderfulness.

And if you happen to mention that Obama is the first president to create more than a MILLION jobless workers too depressed to get off the couch, then you’re a dirty RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST TEA BAGGER

BLS Compl Hist Discouraged Wkrs 1994 - 2013

If the economy were to improve under Obama (not holding my breath), the Unemployment Rate would rise, at which point the talking heads would carefully explain to us at great length and with lots of experts and charts that it was because Discouraged Workers were now re-entering the job market, so woohoo Obama!

Sources:

BLS: Unemployment Rate @ http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000.

The official (but faux) “total unemployment” rate used for media and political sound bytes and headlines. This statistic is reported as a percent of the employable population, which includes civilian, non-institutionalized Americans ages 16 and over, so basically not soldiers, jailbirds or children. The total employable population number changes.

BLS: Discouraged Workers @ http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNU05026645.

This statistic is reported as an actual number of individuals, not as a percent of employable population, making it very difficult to correlate with the Unemployment Rate.

NOTE: These time series pages are easy to use, but really hard to find at the BLS website. If you want to access them again, bookmark them. 

H/t itooktheredpill for my bookmarks!

P.S., If it makes you angry that the tax-funded Bureau of Labor Statistics has been corrupted by Democrats, join the club.

6 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Democrats, Economy, George W. Bush, Republicans, Unemployment

6 responses to “The Unemployment Rate Bait-and-Switch

  1. A few tricks I’ve figured out along the way regarding BLS URL links…

    If you know a “Series ID” for a certain set of data, you can put that series ID at the end of this URL to see the data:
    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/

    For example, the URL for Series ID LNS12300026 is:
    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300026

    You can see the series ID for several different sets of data here:
    Top Picks
    Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

    If you have a given series ID, changing the last few digits appears to apply similar filters to the data, across different series IDs.

    For example, changing the last digit from 0 to 1 appears to filter the data for that series to just men, and changing the last digit from to 2 appears to filter the data for that series to just women.

    Changing the last two digits from 00 to 25 appears to filter the data for that series to just men age 20+, and changing the last two digits to 26 appears to filter the data for that series to just women age 20+/

    For example,
    Unemployment Rate – Civilian Labor Force – LNS14000000
    Unemployment Rate – Men- LNS14000001
    Unemployment Rate – Women – LNS14000002
    Unemployment Rate – 20 Yrs. & Over Men – LNS14000025 Unemployment Rate – 20 Yrs. & Over Women – LNS14000026

    I’ve been using this to tweet some responses to Nancy Pelosi recently…

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  5. Links for data that goes into the columns of
    Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over, 1978 to date
    ======================

    1) Civilian noninstitutional population – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNU00000000
    2) Number Civilian Labor Force – Civilian Labor Force Level – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11000000
    3) Percent of population Civilian Labor Force – Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000
    4) Number Employed in Civilian Labor Force – Number Employed – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12000000
    5) Percent of population Employed in Civilian Labor Force – Employment-Population Ratio – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300000
    6) Number Unemployed in Civilian Labor Force – Unemployment Level – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS13000000
    7) Percent of population Unemployed in Civilian Labor Force – Unemployment Rate – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
    8) Number Not in Labor Force – http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS15000000

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