Thursday, June 2, 2011

When Economic Conditions (And Definitions) Won't Cooperate

From Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt, we are directed to this NY Times article on how bad unemployment numbers bring discouraging news for out of work Americans Obama's election chances:

WASHINGTON — No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.

Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.

Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer. Companies are firing fewer people, but hiring remains anemic. And the vast majority of economic forecasters, including the president’s own advisers, predict only modest progress by November 2012.

Bold mine. Because, well, that is a poorly worded sentence.

Via Instapundit, let's turn to this AP article:

The labor force — those who have a job or are looking for one — is getting smaller, even though the economy is growing and steadily adding jobs. That trend defies the rules of a normal economic recovery.
...
By the government's definition, if you quit looking, you're no longer counted as unemployed. And you're no longer part of the labor force.

So the NY Times':

"Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer."

should rather be:

"Roughly 9 percent of Americans who are actively looking for work cannot find an employer."

So the question is, how many people have given up looking for work? Back to the article:

Since November, the number of Americans counted as employed has grown by 765,000, to just shy of 139 million. The nation has been creating jobs every month as the economy recovers. The economy added 244,000 jobs in April.

But the number of Americans counted as unemployed has shrunk by much more — almost 1.3 million — during this time. That means the labor force has dropped by 529,000 workers.

In an article making the case that the current 9% unemployment rate is bad news for Obama's re-election prospects, it wouldn't appear that the NY Times is simply wishing away a half million people as a boost for the President. So, perhaps the NY Times simply does not know any better.

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