The recently released unemployment statistics fail to reveal the true extent of America’s job crisis.
The most generally quoted figure, the Bureau of Labor Statistics “U-3” stands at a marginally improved but still unacceptable 6.7%. According to the Mercatus Center a more accurate picture is revealed after considering real-world factors.
Much of the decrease in the U3 unemployment rate is due not to improved jobs availability, but to a decrease in the labor force participation rate. According to Mercatus, “If the labor force participation rate in December 2013 were the same as that in December 2012, the official U3 unemployment rate would be 7.9 percent. Adding in the alternative unemployment measures provides even less cause for celebration … many workers [who] do not fit the narrow criteria of the official unemployment measurement have struggled to find employment for years, to little avail. It is important to not forget these critical labor demographics in assessing the full unemployment picture in the United States.”
Those workers fortunate enough to have a job saw the size of their compensated workweek decline slightly, by 0.1hours.
A more thorough analysis, the U-6, stands at a frightening 13.1%. . Even that number underestimates the crisis, since the national employment participation rate is at a four-decade low of 62.8%, representing a worsening of an 0.8 percentage point over the year. 347,000 left the workforce in December, exceeding the number of new jobs created. More and more Americans have completely dropped out of the labor force, and therefore aren’t counted in unemployment statistics.
As this column has previously noted, even many of those fortunate few who have found work and are counted as employed are actually working only part-time. Rep. David Camp, (R-MI) who has dug far deeper into U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data than most, notes that “seven out of eight new employees under President Obama have been part-time employees.”
Upon closer review, the news is even more distressing. 2013 saw a record high number of U.S. workers on disability—a shocking figure of almost 11 million.It has been speculated that the federal government has been more lenient in granting disability since taking these workers out of the counting for unemployment improves the statistical outlook.
The number of long-term unemployed continues to be an unresolved crisis. These displaced workers count for 37.7% of all unemployed, and their chances of re-entering the work force diminish daily.
For those born in the United States, the situation is significantly more challenging. According to an analysis by Steven Camorata and Karen Ziegler of the Center for Immigration Studies, any net gain in employment over the past 13 years has gone to both legal and illegal immigrants. They note that the number of natives working fell by 1.3 million even as the overall size of the 16 to 65 workforce increased by 16.4 million. During the same time period, the number of legal and illegal immigrants working increased by 5.3 million.
The chances for a presidential change of course appear slight, as the White House has taken a more combative tone. In his recent press conference, ignoring the failure of his policies, the president proclaimed “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” asserting that he would engage more in executive action rather than legislation, disregarding Constitutional restrictions on his authority.