Saturday, February 18, 2012

Non-Partisan Facts about the Jobs Numbers (First Time Ever!)

Lies, damned lies, and statistics describes the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. Both the Democrats and the Republicans use partisanship when describing the number of jobs created and how many people are unemployed to curry favor with the voters.

I've been on both sides of this argument because I've changed my party affiliation halfway through the Great Recession while being unemployed. I could use lies, damned lies, and statistics if I had wanted to, but I decided to take a more neutral point of view when authoring this particular post (links are included for my sources).

The Republicans just can't seem to comprehend the boring jobs numbers at all, and the Democrats don't want them to know. But I can understand why, and I don't blame them at all.

I'll begin with the first myth.

Please read the sentence below and remember it while reading the remainder of this post:

"The U.S. Department of Labor reports 3.4 million job openings and 12.8 million Americans are unemployed."

Got that? I believe the number of unemployed Americans to be much higher, but we'll get to that part further on in this post.

On one hand, the Republicans say people "find jobs right away when their unemployment benefits expire", indicating that there are lots of jobs available for them if they want to work. (Remember, the U.S. Department of Labor reports 3.4 million job openings and 12.8 million Americans are unemployed.)

On the other hand, the Republicans are also saying that "the unemployed are refusing to take jobs, and that giving them unemployment benefits only encourages them to remain unemployed." The Republicans must be touting some obscure study dating back to the 1970's. While that may have been true 40 years ago, it's certainly not true today. (Remember, the U.S. Department of Labor reports 3.4 million job openings and 12.8 million Americans are unemployed.)

Alan Reynolds at the ultra-conservative/libertarian Cato Institute (a right-wing advocacy group), supports that claim about the unemployed finding work when their benefits run out. He says, "If you are subsidized to stay out of the workforce, many people will. People think that when benefits run out, most people will still be unemployed, but most will accept jobs that are less than ideal shortly before benefits run out. There is work available if people are willing to relocate or take jobs in a different field. Unemployment benefits can actually hurt people's chances of finding work; their skills get rusty and they have more trouble explaining the long gap on their resumes."

Remember, the U.S. Department of Labor reports 3.4 million job openings and 12.8 million Americans are unemployed. Those job openings also include many part-time low-paying jobs that will go to 16-year-olds at the mall, temporary summer help at fast food restaurants, and temporary winter retail positions at places like Wal-Mart during the holiday season ("less than ideal" jobs).

Those 3.4 million job openings also might include those high-school janitor jobs that Newt Gingrich wants to hire under-age children to do.

But yet, Alan Reynolds wants the general public to believe that if you're not underwater on the mortgage of your home (and can find a buyer), and you still have some cash in the bank, you can pack up the kids into the family car and drive across the country - - and you'd have a very good chance of getting hired for one of those 3.4 million jobs that are "less than ideal".

But Mister Reynolds implies that by giving you an unemployment check instead, it will only encourage you to at stay home, watch TV, and drink beer all day long (no matter how far behind you are on your mortgage and car payments).

I would encourage Alan Reynolds to read my article, The Truth About Unemployment Benefits. (Reynolds is supposed to be a "fellow" at that "institute", but he obviously must lack some very basic arithmetic skills.)

And not everyone who has been unemployed receives any unemployment benefits. And most people who have qualified for state and federal unemployment benefits over the past 3 years, have already used theirs up - - and without ever finding any other job again. FACT.

The Huffington Post reports that "only 22% of Americans who've been unemployed for more than a year are currently receiving unemployment benefits." Even Fox News says, "Early last year, 75% [of all the unemployed] were receiving checks. The figure is now 48%, a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Nearly one-third of America's 14 million unemployed have had no job for a year or more."

I would say it's more like 2 years or more. For yours truly, it's been over 3 years, and I personally know of many other people who have been out of work longer than me.

After their unemployment benefits run out, many people can then apply for food stamps (and TANF if they have children). Nearly 46 million people now rely on food stamps because they're either out of work or "under-employed". As one Tea Party website says, "8.2 million Americans have only part-time employment, either because they can't find full-time work, or because their hours have been cut back." This is what is now known as the under-employed.

Yet the Tea Party and Republicans are also saying that "we shouldn't be giving checks to people who sit at home doing nothing" and that "the unemployed are gaming the system" and that many are "using their checks to buy alcohol and drugs". Newt Gingrich even made a wild claim about them "flying to Hawaii".

So I suppose that currently, according the Tea Party and Republicans, if we cut off unemployment benefits to 7.7 million Americans who currently receive them, they would immediately find 3.4 million 7.7 million available jobs that were "less than ideal", so long as they were "willing to relocate or take jobs in a different field".

And is that supposed to make sense to anyone with a brain larger than a dinosaur? That big square peg (12.8 million unemployed) does NOT fit into that tiny little hole (3.4 million jobs).

Today in February 2012, we have at least 10 million Americans who once qualified, but have already exhausted all their unemployment benefits (I explain in more detail further below). We also have 7.7 million who currently receive unemployment benefits (state and federal) and we have another 8.2 million who only work part time (because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job).

So far, this makes a total of 25.9 million that we know of, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually counted at one time or another; but the BLS currently reports the U-3 unemployment rate as only 12.8 million, and when we currently only have 3.4 million job openings - - and that's after Obama said he's already created 3.7 million new jobs over the past 23 months. Now add another 6 million high school and college graduates that were never included as part of the work force.

Now look at those number again (double check the links if you need to.)

But what have the Republicans been saying?

  • "The unemployed are refusing to take jobs"
  • "Giving them unemployment benefits only encourages them to remain unemployed."
  • "The unemployed always find jobs right away when their unemployment benefits expire."
  • "There are jobs available if people are willing to relocate."
  • "There is work available if people are willing to take work in a different field."
  • "They lack the necessary job skills."
  • "The unemployed are gaming the system."
  • "We shouldn't be giving checks to people who sit at home doing nothing."
  • "They're just buying alcohol and drugs."
  • "They're lazy hobos."
  • "They're vacationing in Hawaii!!!"

The Republicans know full well that there aren't enough jobs today, and they also know that half the jobs were lost at the end of George W. Bush's watch as the economy was sinking, and the other half were lost in the beginning of Obama's watch. Either way, no matter who one blames for lost jobs, there still aren't enough jobs for everyone that needs one. So why do the Republicans always make all these false accusations about the unemployed and unemployment benefits?

End Non-Partisan Facts, Begin Partisan Commentary

Simple, because the Republicans just don't want to pay anybody "to sit at home and do nothing", regardless if it's the Republican's fault, Obama's fault, the "job creator's" fault, the banker's fault, or the fault of the unemployed. The Republicans just don't want to help the unemployed, the sick, the poor, the working poor, or the destitute and homeless...they never have and they never will. And they have ALWAYS castigated the unemployed, that's just the GOP.

But if you mention more tax breaks for the uber-rich, more defense spending, and more subsidies for big oil and tobacco, the Republicans are all on board. And they will want it all paid for with cuts to food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, TANF, and anything else that someone only earning $27,000 a year or less might need to survive on. That's just the GOP.

But we need to look more at the job numbers.

Back to Non-Partisan Facts, End of Partisan Commentary

Herman Cain recently claimed the government falsifies the jobs numbers. But if you can't believe a serial adulterer, a sexual molester, and a greedy liar, then you might not believe him. But personally, I do tend to believe that the government does sugar-coat the numbers, no matter which political party holds office. It's always been that way; it's just partisan politics.

If you count all the Americans that just magically dropped out of the work force, the unemployment rate is much higher than is being currently reported.

Which brings up another question: How does one "drop out" of the work force? I suppose one "re-enters" the work force when they get hired by someone, but how does one "drop out"?

A Tea Party website mentions that, "Since January 2009, the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] said more than 5 million people have dropped out of the labor force -- the greatest decline in American history and the lowest participation rate in more than three decades. Only about six in 10 adult American civilians are counted as part of the labor force." (Very rarely do I ever agree with the Tea Party these days, and let alone with Herman Cain about anything!)

So here we are. The Tea Party and Republicans know we have a lot of people unemployed, and they know that there aren't enough jobs, but yet they still blame the unemployed for not taking jobs! Does that make any sense at all?

End Non-Partisan Facts, Begin Partisan Commentary

While I can understand that the Tea Party and Republicans will never "officially" and openly admit that they would like to see high unemployment and a bad economy (no matter what the human cost and suffering to REAL people), just so that they can blame the Obama administration for doing a bad job (and to get themselves elected next November); but why have they been spewing disparaging remarks out of the other side of their mouth about the unemployed? Is that their way of getting votes, or are the jobless just statistically less apt to vote, and therefore, the GOP uses the jobless as sacrificial red meat to appease their far-right conservative base?

Despite what many Republican politicians still ignorantly believe, the majority of the unemployed and those in need of food stamps are not "a bunch of lazy and young black guys wearing baggy pants and sitting on the curb drinking cheap wine out of a brown paper bag while panhandling for change outside a liquor store." They're mostly middle-aged white people that were once middle-class workers until 3 years ago, and maybe half of them are Republicans.

Back to Non-Partisan Facts, End of Partisan Commentary

Now, let's get deeper into the actual numbers.

It was in January of 2009 when Obama first took office. Nine months later in October of 2009 the labor department had reported that unemployment had peaked when there were 15.7 million Americans unemployed, and the U-3 unemployment rate was at 10.2%. (This was over 99 weeks ago, so please note that since that time, those who had been receiving unemployment benefits have since exhausted all their unemployment benefits.)

Seven months later in May of 2010, when the U-3 unemployment rate dropped to 9.7%, there were almost 10 million Americans who had qualified for, and were receiving, regular state UI benefits (4.5 million) and extended federal EUC benefits (5.4 million). This was when Obama had then been in office for 14 months.

A year later Obama had been in office for 26 months. Since that time there were another 6 million high school and college graduates who never found work, never qualified for unemployment benefits, and were never counted as part of the labor force (as we had a lower "participation rate")

A year later, Obama has now been in office for 36 months (3 years). As of January 2012, there were 7.7 million Americans who had qualified for, and are currently receiving, regular state UI benefits (4.08 million, those who were laid off within the last 6 months) and extended federal EUC benefits (3.62 million).

The U-3 unemployment rate is now 8.3%. Remember, as was noted before, at least 10 million Americans have already exhausted all their unemployment benefits, and of those, most are no longer being counted as "discouraged workers" or "marginally attached" anymore after one year.

* As of February 2012, those who qualify for federal extended benefits (now up to only 73 weeks maximum, instead of the previous total of 99 weeks) may now have to be drug tested and join a "Georgia Works" program to work two months for free).

At the very minimum, since Obama first took office, and not counting those who never qualified for unemployment benefits (such as school graduates, small business owners who went bust, private contractors, etc.), nearly 18 million Americans have at some point received federally funded extended unemployment benefits (meaning they exhausted 26 weeks of state benefits and were unemployed 6 months and longer to qualify for federal extended UI benefits).

Now subtract from 18 million how many NET jobs were created since October 2009 when the unemployment peaked at 10.2% = _______________ total Americans that we know for sure are currently unemployed (and not counting the "under" employed, those who working one or more part-time jobs.)

The last I heard, Obama says there were 3.7 million NET new jobs created. The labor secretary Hilda L. Solis says we currently have 8.1 million "long-term unemployed", about what I once estimated as a total for all UI exhaustees and 99ers.

But even leaving room for a margin of error, and accounting for those who might be working "under the table" and/or those who went on Social Security and disability, I still think there are closer to 15.7 million Americans who have been out of work for over 99 weeks (2 years and longer).

So how can the unemployment rate be dropping if there weren't as many jobs created for the ones that were lost, while the current job openings can't even sustain natural population growth? The REAL unemployment rate is closer to 20% - - one out of every person between the ages of 16 and 65 (what the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts as the labor force)

While Obama can claim 3.7 million NET new jobs were created over the last 26 months (including natural "churn" in the job market), we'd still need millions of more jobs just to break even, because we've had more layoffs since the unemployment rate peaked in October 2009.

End Non-Partisan Facts, Begin Partisan Commentary

Naturally I don't want the Republicans to know about any of this, because they'd use it against Obama in an election year. But voting for Republicans will only make things much worse for everyone...everyone, that is, except for the Republican politicians (who think most of the unemployed are lazy drug users) and the wealthy "job creators" - - those who feel that they're being punished by the other 99%.

Last year, of that bottom 99%, half of them earned less than $27,000 a year (when the poverty line for a family of four was $22,314), but the Republicans think these people should "put more skin in the game".

The Republicans must not believe (or are in denial) that the "working poor", and another 30 million Americans who are unemployed, are struggling just to survive, but instead think they're all just engaged in class envy and resentment - - and waging a class war against the uber-rich "job creators".

But let's not forget how we got to where we are today.

Under George W. Bush we lost 52,000 factories. A Republican congress had deregulated the banks that caused the housing crash. The Republicans under George W. Bush caused our huge deficit with tax cuts and two un-paid wars (Obama added to it by trying to stimulate the economy and helping the unemployed). The Republicans caused mass poverty and what they claim to be Obama's welfare state. (Yes, I know, the truth hurts).

This is what the Republican don't want you to know...that they only care about the top 1%.

Even though the Republicans call the unemployed lazy drug users who reject jobs to stay on the government dole (and claim that when their unemployment benefits run out, they suddenly find a job), this is simply not true.

The Republicans also know that there are only 3.4 million job openings scattered somewhere across the county, and that there just aren't enough jobs for everyone...but the GOP will still accuse Obama of promoting a welfare state, and use the unemployment numbers against him, rather that acknowledging that there just aren't enough jobs, and that we need a stronger safety net until more jobs come on line...not because "Obama want us to be more like Europe". In Europe, their safety net is much more generous than ours is.

And if half our workforce (75 million) earns less than $27,000 a year and another 30 million are unemployed (which all told, equals about 2/3 of our entire workforce), how does the GOP expect these people to access healthcare if they become injured and sick if the Republicans want to CUT everything, instead of just taxing billionaires a little more?

If any of those families could have afforded their own healthcare insurance, they would have paid an average of $414 per month last year. Millions of unemployed Americans might have once been eligible for COBRA too, but most couldn't afford those high insurance rates either. It's not that they're "free riders", they just can't afford the cost of healthcare insurance after they pay for their rent, heat, electricity and food. What part of that don't the Republicans understand? This is not class warfare, it's math.

But we don't want the Republicans to know the REAL jobs numbers, because if they realized how dire the situation really is for the unemployed, they won't use that knowledge to help the poor and working poor, but only use the numbers to try and make Obama look bad, just so that the GOP can regain power. The Republicans could care less about the unemployed, poor, working poor, or middle-class....just the top 1%.

When will Republican voters who earn less than $1 million a year ever wake up?

If Obama created 3.7 million jobs in his first 3 years, at that rate we'd have another 1.23 million created in 2012. If Obama were elected for four more years, at 1.23 million a year, we'd have a total of 9.84 million new jobs during his 8 years in office - - - about what we lost under both Bush and Obama in 2008 and 2009.

And with Obama, by allowing the historically low Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year (and/or a 30% income tax on earnings over $1 million a year), and with the end of two wars (barring Iran), our budget will also be in much better shape as well. Otherwise, we'll just have "more of the same" with the Republicans with more tax cuts for the rich, the outsourcing of jobs, the repeal of Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Bureau to reign in the big banks, and things will only get worse.

And guess what? If that happens, all the formerly-middle-class Americans who were driven into poverty by the GOP won't get a dime from them in any future assistance. That's just the GOP.

Back to Non-Partisan Facts, End Partisan of Commentary

No matter who wins the Presidency, the House, and the Senate this November, you can bet that one or the other political party will use lies, damned lies, and statistics (and political partisanship) to cook the books when it comes to the unemployed.

Just like in the past, both parties will sweep the jobless under the rug (bury them alive) because they won't want to deal with the reality, let alone acknowledge, that millions of Americans were most likely permanently forced into poverty during the Great Recession and will mostly probably never earn a middle-class wage again...especially if they were already forced into early Social Security retirement, or if they are between the ages of 45 and 65 years old today. FACT.

Just like when someone dies, life goes on for everybody else.

End Non-Partisan Facts AND Partisan Commentary

P.S. - Beware of the Unemployment Truthers!

1 comment:

  1. The number of people hired each month far exceeds the estimated number of "job openings," which only refer to advertisements. Most jobs are not obtained through ads. See: