Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics Redux

Earlier this week, I did a column on the differences between official government statistics and those available at Shadow Government Statistics, where changes to the official reporting methods over the last couple of decades are backed out to present figures that are comparable to those from earlier times.

Now, thanks to the fine efforts of one of the posters at the previously-mentioned Absolute Write Politics and Current Events forum, we have survey numbers courtesy of Gallup that appear to back up ShadowStat's assertions. Here's the pertinent chart again.

According to Gallup1, 9% of the U.S adults in the workforce, ages 18 and older, are unemployed, another 10.1% are underemployed, and only 64% of the labor force is employed full-time. The 9% figure is 12% higher than the official U3 rate, while the 19.1% figure is 27% higher than the official U6 rate, so it appears that even the official figures are significantly lower than what an independent polling firm finds.

Taking into account the 64% of the labor force that is employed full-time and the 19.1% of the workforce that includes unemployed and underemployed workers actively seeking employment, that leaves 17% that aren't actively looking for work, although there's no breakdown of whether they are discouraged workers who'd like a job but have given up hope of finding one, those enjoying the opportunity to just hang out until their unemployment benefits are almost up, or rich fat cats who just clip bond coupons and live off the proceeds of their investments. I'd like to see a breakdown of that 17%. And I wonder if their definition of "workforce" includes voluntary stay-at-home parents?

In any event, it sure makes that 22% look more realistic than the official 8.3%.

It's also worth noting that while official U.S. statistics claim to include those in the 16 to 18 year old age group, Gallup surveys only those members of the workforce ages 18 and older. Given that young workers are known to be severely disadvantaged in the workplace, it would seem that accounting for that difference could only make the official statistics look even worse.

...and that's all I have to say about that.
1 Gallup's numbers "reflect 30-day rolling averages based on telephone interviews with approximately 30,000 adults. Margin of error is ± 1 percentage point."

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