Guest Column

March 25, 2012

Unemployment statistics can be confusing

I'm not an economist; I can barely balance my checkbook, and I would have failed statistics if it weren't for Sharon Sharillo. So imagine the difficulty I have interpreting data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Add whatever political spin you will to the mix and any interpretation of the data is a next to impossible task.

Take the data released March 8.

There was good news.

Both initial unemployment insurance claims and the unemployment rate dropped. That was welcome news.

But there was not so good news, as well.

According to the BLS, 12.8 million Americans were still unemployed. Of that number, 42.6 percent, or 5.4 million Americans, have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, otherwise known as the long-term unemployed.

Then there was more good news.

Employment in the private sector grew by 233,000. The sectors leading the way were professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and mining.

Then more not so good news.

The unemployment rates for the major worker groups remained flat. The unemployment rate for adult men was 7.7 percent, for adult women 7.7 percent, for teenagers 23.8 percent, for whites 7.3 percent, for blacks 14.1 percent, for Hispanics 10.7 percent and for Asians 6.3 percent.

Finally, there was some mixed news.

Since the recession officially ended in the summer of 2009, the economy has added approximately 1.66 million net jobs. Great news.

During the same period, however, the number of working-age Americans not in the labor force (those who have stopped looking for work) rose by 7.14 million. (My father argues that many stopped looking for work out of fear they might find it.)

The only group for whom labor participation rates have not fallen are workers age 65 and over.

The average length of unemployment is still close to its all-time high, and almost 3 million people are working part-time rather than full-time. Not so great news.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Guest Column
  • krieg_felicia_mug.jpg Affordable doesn't mean low quality

    Drugstore products often perform just as well as their high-end counterparts, Felicia Krieg writes.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Opportunity to repair infrastructure missed

    A vibrant economy requires roads, bridges, dams and other assets that are in good condition, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ken_wibecan.jpg Remembering the Sixties

    Each Memorial Day and Labor Day in the early 1960s, about a dozen of us city-dwellers drove to Lake George, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg The right to be forgotten?

    Europe taking first steps toward securing privacy with Google and Facebook, writes columnist Stu Denenberg.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Ethical consumerism in vogue

    However, making purchasing choices that can help save the planet aren't always that simple, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg U.S. lacking leadership

    Inspiration is hard to come by as society struggles to fulfill the traditional American dream, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for quality, safety, animal welfare

    June Dairy Month is a good time to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the very best in dairy products, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Libraries still relevant

    In the digital age, it takes innovation and creativity to assure libraries stay a vital part of the community, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Trees at risk from pests

    The Emerald Ash Borer is a major threat to ash trees locally and across North America, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Scandal an affront to America's veterans

    Those who sacrifice for their country deserve only the best treatment when they come home, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo