U-3, U-6 and the Labor Force Participation Rate 2004 through February 2013

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 12th, 2013

History 101

During Obama’s First Term the U-3 and U-6 Unemployment Rates moved Further Apart

The latest employment data showed the official unemployment rate fell in February to 7.7% from 7.9% in January.  The Labor Department also reported the addition of 227,000 new jobs.  Proof, the economists say, that the economy is improving.  But when you dig deeper into the data you find otherwise.  For the economy may have added 227,000 new jobs but 296,000 jobs left the labor market.  And they didn’t count these people as unemployed.  So there was a net loss of jobs.  Despite the fall in the official unemployment rate.

We keep saying official unemployment rate for a reason.  For the government has six different unemployment rates.  The ‘official’ rate is what they call U-3.  Which doesn’t count a lot of people who can’t find full time work.  A more inclusive rate is the U-6 number (see Labor Force Participation Rate for an explanation of the U-3, U-6 and the labor force participation rate).  The U-6 rate counts pretty much everyone who can’t find a full-time job.  Including discouraged workers, the marginally attached and those working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job.  Before the Great Recession (during the George W. Bush administration) the U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates tracked closer together than they do now (during the Barack Obama administration).  As we can see in the following chart (see Data Retrieval: Labor Force Statistics (CPS) for data source).

Unemployment Rates U3 U6 2004-2013

During Bush’s second term U-3 was between 4% & 6%.  And U-6 was between 8% and 10%.  But during Obama’s first term U-3 shot above Bush’s U-6.  And Obama’s U-6 soared to twice Bush’s U-6.  Most of this was due to the subprime mortgage crisis.  And the resulting Great Recession.  But that doesn’t explain why the graphs moved further apart.  And why did they do this?  Was it because they were overstating U-6?  Were they understating U-3?  Or is there some other explanation?  It has to be something.  And it’s likely not good.

The Official Unemployment Rate has been Understated by at least 2.9 Points during the Obama Presidency

During President Bush’s second term there was on average a 4-point spread between U-3 and U-6.  During President Obama’s first term this point spread increased to 6.9.  A difference of 2.9 points.  Which if we subtract to U-6 or add to U-3 the graphs will move closer together.  So they track each other at the same distance apart from each other they did during Bush’s second term.  When you look at the labor participation factor and the lost jobs one can only assume we’re understating U-3.  And not overstating U-6.  So if we add 2.9 points to U-3 after December 2008 the graphs look like this.

Unemployment Rates U3 Adjusted U6 2004-2013

We can ignore the sharp rise in U-3 adjusted.  As the loss 2.9 points of the U-3 unemployment rate would not have been instantaneous once January 2009 hit.  But once we get to the new highs the graphs maintain the same distance from each other as they did during Bush’s second term.  Which means the official unemployment rate didn’t fall from approximately 10% to 8% during Obama’s first term.  It actually fell from 12.9% to 10.6%.  And that the current official unemployment rate is not 7.7%.  But 10.6%.  Which is, of course, 2.9 points higher.

So the official unemployment rate is higher than they report.  With the official unemployment being understated by at least 2.9 points.  And the economy is not improving like they say.  Anyone reading the jobs data can see this.  But the Obama administration and their friends in the media, as well as mainstream economists, all say everything is getting better.  Or they say it is just the new normal.  To provide some cover for their failed Keynesian economic policies.  Which failed to pull the economy out of the Great Depression.  They failed to pull the economy out of the stagflation of the Seventies.  And they are now failing to pull the economy out of the Great Recession.

The ‘New Normal’ under President Obama has been a Steadily Declining Labor Force Participation Rate

Keynesian economics calls for the government to have control of interest rates.  They keep interest rates artificially low.  To expand the money supply.  They also increase taxes.  And borrow money.  Just so they can spend.  A lot.  For Keynesian theory says when the economy falls into recession the government should spend.  Even if it requires running a deficit.  To generate economic activity.  But expanding the money supply only causes inflation.  And higher prices.  Which dampens economic activity.  Which is why we have never spent our way out of a recession.  And never will.

President Obama is a Keynesian.  His Keynesian policies have hindered, not helped, the economic recovery.  And his excessive regulations have further hindered the economic recovery.  He shut down the domestic oil industry on public lands.  His war on coal has laid off swaths of coal miners and others in the coal industry. His rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline has prevented the creation of thousands of new jobs.  His environmental regulations have increased the cost of doing business.  As has Obamacare.  Which has put a freeze on new hiring.  And pushed lot of full time people to part time.  Nothing this administration has done has helped the economy.  While most everything it has done has hurt the economy.  And we can see that when we look at the labor force participation rate.  When we graph it along with U-3 (the official rate not the adjusted rate) and U-6 (see Employment Situation Archived News Releases for data source).

Unemployment Rates U3 U6 Labor Participation Rate 2004-2013

And here we see what caused U-3 and U-6 to move further apart.  U-3 is understated because people are continually leaving the labor force.  Unable to find a job.  This is why we have a net loss of jobs even when they report a gain of 227,000 new jobs in February.  Or a gain in any other month.  This is why the economy hasn’t improved under President Obama.  Despite what the official unemployment rate is.  And despite all of the new jobs they’ve created.  Because the ‘new normal’ under President Obama has been a steadily declining labor force participation rate.  Meaning he is a job destroyer.  And the only reason why the unemployment rate falls is because these people disappear from the labor force and they just don’t count them anymore.  Sort of how the European employment picture improved after the plague.  So many people left the labor force by dying that it created a labor shortage.  And low unemployment.  The problem here is that these people didn’t die.  They’re still out there waiting to rejoin the labor force.  To hire into jobs that are just not there.  And it’s going to take a long, long time for the economy to absorb these people.  Meaning the economy won’t be getting better anytime soon.  Because it’s a lot worse than they’re reporting.

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