Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unemployment Statistics–A Worthless Measurement

Statistics were released today suggesting that unemployment rates fell slightly across the US in February over January, now tracking at a national average of 7.7% instead of 7.9%.

Personally, I find this measure of the health of an economy to be a worthless measurement because it provides ZERO insight into the quality of the employment in America.

I wonder what kind of hue and cry would be produced if we showed a monthly index that reflected how the employed are living, with the index being a composite factoring in:

- how well families are doing versus the poverty line

- the number of people dependant on the worker’s income

- the impact of the job (or jobs for many individuals) on the quality and availability of family, volunteer and personal growth time

- the number of workers who must make use of state or federal assistance programs to make ends meet despite being employed

- locale-specific cost-of-living data

- the nature of the employment versus education levels / alignment with personal purpose (difficult to measure but insightful into the sense of satisfaction obtained from employment and potentially providing insight into “happiness levels”, which may impact healthcare costs as well as provide a better understanding of the ROI of student loan programs)

- other data points of relevance.

It would be equally important to find a way to factor in the hundreds of thousands of people who are not counted in unemployment statistics because they gave up on their job search out of exhaustion and frustration and are thus considered “no longer looking for work” or they exhausted their benefits and are thus statistically considered as being “work ineligible” (for reasons I don’t understand).

This index would attempt to measure the true “employment health” of the nation (or at least the potential for it).

I think that waving around such statistics on a monthly basis would be far more revealing in terms of the true health of the nation and a better predictor for month-over-month economic health (or lack of it).

I also think that politicians would never agree to promoting such numbers because they (and we) might be afraid of what we might see …. and it might draw cries for better accountability and results.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



  1. You would need a PhD in Actuarial Statistics in order to calculate or interpret this index. Nobody in the mainstream media would be able to explain it.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    If you had a background in calc'ing these types of statistics, which I do and you appear not to, then you would know that your statement is inaccurate.

    However, such a statement would be a useful excuse for any politician looking to dodge accountability or looking to hide some unfortunate realities.

    Create a great day!


    1. It appears that the comment I was referring to has been deleted. :-)

  3. And if you look at the math behind what is included / excluded, seasonally adjusted, regionally adjusted (sometimes by season) and adjusted for other reasons, you will see that the math behind unemployment figures, while meaningless, is also very sophisticated.

  4. And also adjusted (in terms of what is included / excluded) to serve political purposes. From one President to another, the criteria has been changed to promote the current while bashing the prior.

  5. This statistic is so worthless is angers me every month when it comes out. The president walks around with his headline of unemployment down a number x% while ignoring the fact that the actual number of people in this country that are employed keeps falling. But as long as they aren't actively seeking employment then they don't count as unemployed. Give me a break.