Friday, February 04, 2011

Word Games

There’s no inflation, because government doesn’t include in the calculation of inflation anything for which costs are increasing. Likewise, unemployment is dropping because the government does not include in the calculation of that number people who are “not in the labor force,” meaning that, um, they don’t have jobs.

Unemployment dropped, we are told, a whopping .4% and is on the verge now of dropping below 9.0% any month, probably next month since it is at that level now. One small question: how did that large of a drop occur while only adding 36,000 new jobs? I don’t want to be gloomy Gus, here, but in a nation of 330 million people, 36,000 new jobs causes an unemployment drop of almost half a percentage point?

Well, the fact that the number of people who are “not in the labor force” increased by 500,000 might have something to do with it. These are people who have quit looking for work, people whose unemployment benefits have run out, or people who have retired. In that last case, some of them even wanted to. In any case, they were “unemployed” last month, but no longer are. They are “not in the labor force.” Half a million of them in one month.

Yes, 36,000 new jobs were added, but 500,000 people were arbitrarily subtracted from the count of "unemployed" people. Which do you think reduced the unemployment rate?

The number of people employed, as a percentage of people who need to work, is still getting worse; now at 57.6%, lower even than the 57.8% that it hit in January of last year.

The government can play around with numbers all it wants to, but you still have to go to the grocery store and buy food. The government’s published number on inflation is not going to lower your grocery bill, it is not going to lower the cost of filling your gas tank, and it’s not going to reduce the cost of heating your home in a winter of record-breaking cold.

When you walk into an office and are told that 20 applicants are there for the same job you are, and your unemployment benefits have run out, the government saying that you are “not in the labor force” rather than “unemployed” is not going to matter to the landlord to whom you owe rent, nor to your children when you tell them there is no lunch.

Our government is charged with making things better, not just playing with words and numbers and pretending that things are better. Rhetoric and number manipulation does not change reality.

1 comment:

  1. Above comment removed due to commercial link.