How can the administration continue to claim that the US unemployment situation is slowly but surely improving? Simple - by defining the categories, the meaning of those categories, and the statistics measuring them, in their own terms. Statistics painting too gloomy a picture? Easy-peasy - just change the definition, or amend the methods by which those statistics are calculated, and everything looks rosy again.
The latest example comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has announced that the unemployment rate was almost unchanged last month. Buried in the news release was this gem:
The labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 62.8 percent over the month.
Sounds innocuous, doesn't it? Doesn't have any negative connotations at all, does it? Not so fast. As CNS News points out:
The percentage of American civilians 16 or older who have a job or are actively seeking one dropped to a 35-year low in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
. . .
The labor force, according to BLS, is that part of the civilian noninstitutional population that either has a job or has actively sought one in the last four weeks. The civilian noninstitutional population consists of people 16 or older, who are not on active-duty in the military or in an institution.
At no time during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, did such a small percentage of the civilian non-institutional population either hold a job or at least actively seek one.
. . .
When someone drops out of the labor force and ceases to actively seek a job, they are no longer counted as “unemployed.” The BLS counts as “unemployed” only those who have actively sought a job in the last four weeks. The unemployment rate is the percentage of people in the labor force who did not have a job in the last four weeks but were actively seeking one.
People in the civilian noninstitutional population who did not have a job and did not actively seek one in the last four weeks are considered “not in the labor force.” The number of Americans not in the labor force has climbed by 11,034,000 since Obama took office, rising from 80,507,000 in January 2009 to 91,541,000 in October.
There's more at the link.
Suddenly it's blindingly obvious why the unemployment rate is at 'only' 7.3%, and remaining 'stable'. The BLS has simply removed from the unemployment calculations the more than 11,000,000 Americans who've been added to those 'not in the labor force' over the past five years. It's removed them according to its own definition of 'unemployed' and related terms - which are not those that most of the rest of us would use.
If those millions were considered to be 'unemployed', together with those already in that category, the unemployment rate would effectively double. Needless to say, the administration can't possibly have that - it would tarnish its image, and (perish the thought) give the impression that its policies were less than successful. Uh-huh. Word.
By the way, this isn't a dig at the Obama administration in particular. All administrations, whether Democrat or Republican, seek to hoodwink the American people by doing exactly the same thing. It's nothing new. When any administration bandies numbers around, ask yourself:
- Who's compiling them?
- Who's determining the method of calculation?
- Who's defining the terms that they measure?
The answers to those questions will usually give you a pretty good idea of when the statistics are objective and trustworthy, and when they're not worth the paper they're printed on or the pixels on your screen used to display them.
No prizes for guessing the category into which the BLS's latest numbers fall . . .