Unemployment B(L)S


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website: “People are classified as unemployed if they meet all of the following criteria: they had no employment during the reference week; they were available for work at that time; and they made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.”

More succinctly, you only count as unemployed if you don’t have a job but you sent out resumes, made phone calls, or went on an interview to try to get a job. That fact that you don’t have a job, do not have prospects for a job, and would take a job if you could find one is irrelevant. If that is your situation the government says you are NOT unemployed. Apparently you’re independently wealthy and don’t need to work – congratulations!


According to the BLS the ranks of the “independently wealthy” grew by 525,000 people last month. The economy is doing so great that half a million people said, “screw it, I don’t need a job.” In the last year 2.9 million people, equal to the population of Chicago, went on a permanent vacation according to the administration. How fortunate for the President. Since so many people stopped needing jobs the unemployment rate fell from 7.0% in November to 6.7% in December. Obamanomics kicks ass!

But given reality do these numbers make any sense? The US population grows at about 1%. That means each month there needs to be 125,000 additional jobs added to the economy, but in the last year the average has only been 115,000 jobs. Every month 10,000 new workers enter the workforce and can’t find a job. There should be 120,000 MORE unemployed people now than there was last year. But the BLS says the number of unemployed workers fell by 921,000. Huh?!

That’s where the magic of government math comes into play. By arbitrarily declaring unemployed people, the vast majority of whom are desperate for work, as no longer in the workforce it’s easy to fudge the numbers and paint a rosy picture.

When you have the audacity to question the veracity of these numbers defenders of the administration will come back with 1 of 2 responses, neither of which is true:

1. “The “labor participation rate” is falling. It’s the continuation of a trend that started a long time ago.” – This is total baloney. The labor participation rate is a fancy name for the percentage of the population that wants to work. When the BLS declares an unemployed person is no longer part of the workforce it causes the participation rate to fall. When the participation rate falls so does the unemployment rate, even if the number of jobs decreases.

During the Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 Presidencies the participation rate bounced around between 65.7% and 67.3%. There was no downward trend, it just moved back and forth. However, in 2009 it started falling like a rock. In July of that year it fell below the lowest point of the previous 20 years and never came back up. It now stands at 62.8%. It’s hard to get a picture of reality from a percentage, so let me put this in human terms – since July 2009 the government has declared that 4.5 million unemployed people don’t need to work and therefore don’t count. This is not the continuation of a long term trend, it didn’t start until the Democrats took control and began building their utopia.

2. “The participation rate is falling because all those baby boomers are retiring.” – This defense is one of the more brain-dead responses I’ve heard and indicates an inability to do basic math, or an overwhelming desire to avoid the truth.

Are there a lot of baby boomers retiring? Yes, but those baby boomers had kids and grandkids, and there are a lot more of the grandkids than there are baby boomers. Everyday the grandkids enter the workforce. Not only do they fill the slots previously held by a retiree, but they fill newly created jobs that didn’t exist before, or at least that’s what happens in a healthy economy. If there aren’t surplus jobs the grandkids join the ranks of the unemployed.

Not only does logic refute this stupid argument, so do BLS statistics. In 2002 the participation rate for workers age 55 and older was 34.5%. By 2012 the rate had UP to 40.5%. No matter how you slice up the older age groups the participation rate went up, NOT down. The exact opposite happened with the younger age groups. In 2002 the participation rate for 20-24 year-olds fell from 76.4% to 70.9%. Older workers are not retiring at a greater rate. In fact many an aged worker refuses to give up his job until you pry it from his cold dead fingers.

One more stat then I’ll stop boring you with numbers. Buried in the BLS table on employment is this line: “Persons who currently want a job, but are not in the labor force”. Translated to English it means, unemployed people who want to work but the BLS decided not to count them as unemployed. This number comes to 6.1 million. Unbelievable! There are over 6 million people who don’t have jobs that the government refuses to count as unemployed! Since the Obamanauts won’t give you the true number of people out of work in this country, I will. It’s 16.5 million. That means the actual unemployment rate is 10.6%.

In America, for every 9 people who have a job there is somebody who can’t find work. Instead of getting out of the way and allowing the free market to create jobs, the government has gone to enormous effort to lie about the situation while enacting regulations that make it worse. They should really just come clean and remove the “L” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics acronym.

About Author

Wayne Middlesteadt

Wayne Middlesteadt is a 1986 graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State University. Currently working as a financial writer and track and field historian, his latest book is Five Ways To Beat The Market.