Sunday, June 05, 2005

When Bad News Really Isn't

Well, economic indicators are in, and whoopdedoo, guess what? Politicians are spinning them to their own benefit. Huge surprise there. Direct from the Department of Labor’s site.


Nonfarm employment edged up by 78,000 in May following a much larger increase in April, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 5.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Payroll employment continued to grow over the month in health care and construction, but was little changed in the other major industry sectors.

Unemployment (Household Survey Data)

Both the number of unemployed persons, 7.6 million, and the unemployment rate, 5.1 percent, were essentially unchanged in May. The jobless rate was down from 5.6 percent a year earlier. Over the month, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.4 percent), adult women (4.6 percent), teenagers (17.9 percent), whites (4.4 percent), blacks (10.1 percent), and Hispanics or Latinos (6.0 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 3.9 percent, not seasonally adjusted. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed--those unemployed 27 weeks and over--was little changed over the month. This group continued to account for about 1 in 5 unemployed persons. (See table A-9.)

Total Employment and the Labor Force (Household Survey Data)

In May, total employment, at 141.5 million, and the civilian labor force, at
149.1 million, continued to trend up. The employment-population ratio, at 62.7 percent, has trended up in recent months. (See table A-1.)

Persons Not in the Labor Force (Household Survey Data)

There were 1.4 million persons who were marginally attached to the labor
force in May, down slightly from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally
adjusted.) These individuals wanted and were available to work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed, however, because they did not actively search for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, at 392,000 in May, declined over the year. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them. The other 1.0 million marginally attached had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-13.)

Republicans are spinning this as good because the unemployment rate went down .1%, which is a good thing. Democrats are spinning this as bad because more jobs weren’t created, which is a bad thing.

To me though, I think the most remarkable thing is the emphasis of “its pretty much the same as last month” throughout the report. To quote: “little changed”, “essentially unchanged”, “little or no change”, and “little changed”. Pretty bland really.

There are positive things to see, even though they are subdued. The labor force (people who are able and want to work) is trending upward, which is good. People who have quit looking for jobs have reduced in number also. These are kind of nice things to at least note, but can also be spinned by both parties. If you watch the Sunday morning talk shows, I’m sure these things will be spun quickly enough to cool an office building.

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