Unemployment in the United States is still as high as ever. The government says the economy added 195,000 jobs. But the best measure of unemployment, that counts everyone, not just those at the unemployment office, went up last month. Worse yet, America has fewer than half its workers working full-time.
The June jobs report
Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an “Employment Situation Summary.” Here is the latest report – the “June jobs report.” It leads with this:
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 195,000 in June, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment rose in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and financial activities.
Look carefully at these categories. “Professional and business services” is fancy Latinate for “temps.” These are “rent-a-drone” jobs. In the Mad Men days, companies assigned these jobs to their secretarial and “junior executive” pools.
“Leisure and hospitality” are the summer jobs at hotels and resorts. “Retail trade” are extra hands in the fast-food joints. Summer jobs always go away in the fall, no matter who fills them.
And the last: “health care” and “financial activities.” These are the armies of bookkeepers and other clerks trying to decipher Obamacare. That kind of increased employment, any free society could do without.
The real unemployment rate
All this begs the question of how many people are really unemployed. The BLS June jobs report quotes an “unemployment rate…unchanged at 7.6 percent.” But what is that rate? To get it, you divide workers showing up at the unemployment office to get a check from the government, by the total workforce. Of course that rate will be low.
But at least some at the BLS have a conscience. They created “alternative measures of labor utilization.” In other words, other unemployment rates. Pay attention, at that link, to U-6. The BLS defines it thus:
Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force
In other words, U-6 re-counts as persons, those that the “unemployment rate” dismisses as unpersons.
And that rate jumped from 13.4 percent to 14.6 percent in one month. The “seasonally adjusted” numbers don’t look much better: from 13.8 to 14.3 percent.
And even so, “the civilian labor force” includes private company workers and government workers. “Civilian” merely means “non-military.” That leaves out the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. But it includes the cops, the faculty and (bloated!) administration in the public schools, and every government paper-pusher. Who pays all their salaries? The private-sector labor force.
The worst part of the unemployment story: fewer than half the civilian labor force is full-time. Ben Bullard, at Personal Liberty Digest, puts that into perspective:
Only 47 percent of employment-age American are working at full-time jobs. The rest? They’re all either working part time, or they’re not working at all.
How did this happen? For one thing, Obamacare pushes companies to replace their full-time staff with part-time staff – or turn them into rent-a-drones. (“Bumstead, you’re fired! Oh, wait – you’re with the temp agency, anyway.” Apologies to Chic Young.) But even without that, the economy is not big enough to support everyone anymore.
So much, then, for “stimulus,” which was not a stimulus at all, but a drug. As anyone with an ounce of understanding of economics, could have predicted.
So don’t let anyone tell you that administration policy has “improved” unemployment. If it has, then that’s only the sort of improvement that the late Richard A. Cloward and his widow, Frances Fox Piven, might appreciate.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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