“So it looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent,” said Romney. “That’s the real reality of what’s happening out there.” [ABC]
First the birthers, and now the jobbers. After campaigning vigorously on the theme the President’s economic policies are failures because the unemployment rate was 8% or above, when the BLS reported a downtick to 7.8% the GOP found it incredible.
Candidate Romney may be referring to the labor participation rate, also calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — which some of his surrogates are now disparaging. The labor participation rate in November 2008 was 65.8%, admittedly higher than 63.6% in the latest report. However, it was 66% during the month before the 2008 election. In fact, as the chart indicates, the labor participation rate has been steadily declining since January 2007.
There is also the “Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization” report, otherwise known as Table A-15. U1 refers to those who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer as a percentage of the civilian labor force; in September 2011 the number was 5.3%, in September 2012 the number dropped to 4.3%. How about the U2’s — those who have completed temporary jobs and are now looking for work? In September 2011 the number was 5.2%, in September 2012 the number reported was 4.2%.
Well, maybe it’s in the U4 number, since they didn’t like the 7.8% in the U3 numbers? In September 2011 the U4 percentage was 9.6%; in September 2012 the U4 the percentage dropped to 8.3%. OK, if it’s not the U4, then how about the U5 numbers? U5 reports the unemployed plus discouraged workers, and in September 2011 the U5 figure was 9.6%, by September 2012 the percentage dropped to 9.3.
OK, if it’s not the U1, the U2, the U4, or the U5, maybe it’s the U6? (That’s the number of people who aren’t working for any reason.) Nope. The U6 report for September 2011 was 14.8%, dropping to 14.7% by September 2012.
Click on the image to go to the original chart:
In short, no matter which numbers one reports the figures illustrate what we’ve known all along. Employment is a lagging indicator. And, those who live in a fact-free universe are often reduced to conspiracy theories to refute news they’d rather not hear.