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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Don't be fooled by unemployment holding at 10%

This morning, the Labor Department reported that the official U.S. unemployment rate for December was 10 percent, a figure that was unchanged from November.

Some are looking at this figure optimistically, suggesting that it shows unemployment has peaked at 10 percent and should start falling.

But you should not be fooled by their optimism. The December number is a fluke, a statistical anomaly like the one that occurred in July, and here's why: The job-hunting situation has gotten so bad that an additional 661,000 unemployed gave up looking for work last month and checked out of the job force.

Because of the way the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics arrives at the official unemployment figure, those 661,000 are not officially counted as "unemployed," if you can believe it. See, you're considered "unemployed" only if you don't have a job and you're looking for one. If you've given up looking altogether you still don't have a job. But hey, at least in the eyes of the Labor Department, you're no longer "unemployed." Which doesn't do anything for your wallet but may boost your self-esteem.

As economist Heidi Shierholz of the liberal Economic Policy Institute writes today: "If these workers had stayed in the labor force (and thus counted among the unemployed), the unemployment rate would have risen to 10.4%."

Repeat: 10.4 percent.

This exit of 661,000 unemployed last month was a big one, the biggest in more than a year.

As I write every month -- and indeed, wrote again here today -- a truer measure of the U.S. unemployment rate figures in Americans who have given up looking for work and those who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time work. That truer, albeit unofficial, rate came in at 17.3 percent, up from last month.

Turns out, even the government's official unemployment rate is a lowball figure.

-- Frank Ahrens
Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 8, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker , Unemployment  | Tags: BLS, jobless rate, unemployment  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Truer unemployment rate rises to 17.3%
Next: November credit card debt drops record amount


The role of the press and most media seems to be fooling the people and suppressing the truth. They are winning and cover-ups still persist as SFO/3/C/920 is proof.

Michael Stephen Nolan
Apartment 5
2 River View
Summerhill North
Cork City
County Cork

Friday 8th January 2010

7:45 pm local time

Posted by: michaelxxxxnolan | January 8, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Even worse, the Post and the idiots in this Administration keep talking about employers cutting jobs. Well, that simply isn't true. They are OUTSOURCING those jobs - more than 4 million since Obama took office! We need to end outsourcing, end disasters like the H1-B and L-1 visas, and do so immediately or we are courting a revolution in this country. The Democrat's passed into law the H1-B visa, enacted NAFTA and those other trade agreements that have cost us so dearly. Obama, in one of his first acts in office, approved more than 50,000 H1-B visas for just six Wall Street banks so they could lay off their entire U.S. IT staffs and replace them with Indian guest workers. We need to put a stop to this nonsense right now. Bring back trade tariffs, duties, and fees on imported goods and services. Enact punitive taxes on companies and investors that outsource jobs or hire guest workers. Just a take one example, don't you think a $5 fee for every offshore handled U.S. service call would have those call centers moved back home? How about charging the same 100% tariff on foreign assembled electronics that CHina and India charge to protect their jobs? Make corporate treason unprofitable and we can *force* the return of our jobs. To not do so will result in a disaster of unprecedented dimensions and a global holocaust that will spell the end of Western civilization.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | January 8, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

the dems passed the 1965 immigration act that started this outsourcing trend...
that and the h1b trend...
the dems should have least found other ways to collect taxes from these companies and not raise the taxes of Americans...
but the dems didn't and most people don't see how this is going on...
they don't get it...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 8, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I hate these articles. The government does not know why people fell out of the labor force, so it is appropriate to include only people who report they are looking for work in the employment rate. It is not that the unemployment rate is 10.4%; it is the unemployment rate remained steady at 10.0% because 661,000 people left the labor force. The line of who is in the labor force and who is not in the labor force has to be drawn somewhere. The Labor Department told you 661,000 stopped looking for work and labor force participation rate fell. I encourage readers of the WaPo to just read the employment situation summary posted on the Labor Department's website. Simple knowledge of division is enough knowledge to understand the summary.

Posted by: js2968a | January 8, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

How, exactly, does the Dept. of Labor know that 661K have 'stopped looking for work'? And what does that even mean? Stopped looking this week because of the ice and snow? Stopped looking for a couple of weeks just to give the frustration a rest? Stopped looking because they've decided to pursue a passion, or open a small business? The 'stopped looking for work stat is stupid and unprovable.

Posted by: frank1569 | January 8, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

When the unemployment rate was under 5% we constantly heard about the "gave up" or were "underemployed" argument. I don't doubt that these observations were any less credible then as they are now. So, why can't we develop an employment picture that takes these numbers in to account? This is not a new story and to bring it up in good times as well as bad reduces the validity of the reports and allows for the politicization of these numbers beyond what they deserve.

Posted by: nmanger1 | January 8, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

AussieJack wrote:
Even the dumbest of the dumb should understand the Government can’t create sustainable jobs and that only private enterprise, both small business and large, can.

So, with this in mind, put yourself in the position of a company CEO, and ask yourself if, under the current administration, you would start hiring new employees when you’re looking down the barrel at;

1. Unknown, but sure to be severe Health Care costs
2. Card Check, the prospect of Unions dictating your company policy
3. Cap and Trade with its higher cost of energy
4. Higher company, payroll and personal Taxes
5. A Government that intrudes on every aspect of your business
6. An administration that does not understand the basic elements of business
7. An administration that denounces the system of capitalism
8. An administration seeking to redistribute your wealth.

Facing that sort of future, any self respecting CEO would neck himself before hiring one single employee that was not 110% essential to the well being of his business.

You have to face the facts, the huge number of people now unemployed or underemployed, estimated to be between 20 and 30 million, is a number that’s going to be around for a long, long time. It’s a number that can only grow when inflation hits and the US$ crumbles even more.

Wake up America, you’ve allowed your great country to be taken over by so called intellectuals, that have never done an honest days work in their miserable lives, and worse than that, you have let them destroy it.

They cannot fix it; they’re incapable, only you, the people, can fix the once great USA.

Posted by: ProCounsel | January 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse


Unemployment shot up in 2009 from 7.7 percent in January to 10.1 percent in October before settling at 10 percent in December. Behind those percentages were more than 4.1 million people who lost their jobs during the year. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that's the most job losses in a year since 1940. (BLS could only provide data from 1940-2009)
But don't expect journalists to label President Barack Obama the worst jobs president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945). The media spent 2009 trying to shield Obama from the troubling numbers.


Where are the jobs clown?

Posted by: charlietuna666 | January 8, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I think we all need to use a little self discipline in throwing around "facts" about jobs issues. I thinks the previous 2 administrations oversaw or overlooked the vast expansion of the outsourcing problem. A previous comment referred to Obama approving 50,000 H1B visas for the banking industry. In fact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed by Obama in February 2009 specifically prohibits the ability of corporations to use H1B visas to replace laid off American workers. I also recall that during the last presidential campaign, Obama was the only candidate of either party to even address the outsourcing problem. The outsourcing problem arises from American corporate culture and is not being addressed by politicians who rely on campaign contributions from these same corporate sources. The current unemployment rate represents a complete failure of BOTH political parties. We need not to simplify this issue by blaming it on one of the political parties by mis-stating "facts". We need to write letters, not emails, to our representatives of both incompetent parties and communicate our outrage over the lack of protection for American
workers. Corporations must not be allowed to profit from outsourcing, whether as a result of fees charged for outsourced jobs or substantial tax credits to companies for use of American labor. We do not need H1B visas. We need to work together as Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to get the attention of our representatives and demand action. Make your opinions known but do it intelligently and check your "facts".

Posted by: wloker | January 9, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The only group for which employment has increased in the past year or so is 55+
Granted the increase is small, but I haven't heard much about how older workers coming back to work has affected the numbers. They have to be keeping some younger workers out of jobs.

Posted by: jake77 | January 9, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

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