Another Look at Unemployment Rates

Unemployment rates (state, regional, and national) are featured regularly in the news. We have all heard where the official numbers are right now (in the neighborhood of 9 percent nationally). I had not thought much previously about how that number was derived. Now, thanks to the following, I’m wondering if the official numbers are reflecting reality–or just numbers (kind of like the “jobs saved or created” numbers we are about to hear). From Forbes:

One recent example [of unhappiness with the President’s financial policies] comes from a new report issued my old colleagues at the liberal-leaning New America Foundation called “Not Out of the Woods: A Report on the Jobless Recovery Underway.” It amounts to a blistering, if largely unintentional, critique of the administration’s policies, providing a sobering antidote to manufactured euphoria peddled by both presidential spin-meisters and some Wall Streeters.


Hindery [an expert cited in the above report] is no conservative. He was an adviser to John Edwards and, more recently, to the president himself. Yet his prognosis is grimmer than the ones offered by most right-wingers. He calculates that the real unemployment rate in the country last month was not 9.3%, which is the figure that was reported, but rather closer to an alarming 16.8%. By that measure, more than 30 million people are effectively out of work. That’s nearly one-fifth of the labor force.

30 million people? Wow.