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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Labor Force Participation Rate

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2013

Economics 101

The Official U-3 Unemployment Rate doesn’t count Everyone who can’t find a Full-Time Job

The unemployment rate fell in February 2012.  Yet more people are out of the workforce than they were in January.  Odd.  For the two seem to contradict each other.  For how can the workforce shrink when the unemployment rate falls.  Easy.  It just depends on who you count.  The federal government has a few ways to count unemployed people.  Specifically, they have six ways.

U-1  Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U-2  Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U-3  Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).

U-4  Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers.

U-5  Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

U-6  Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

As you can see they count more people at each of the six levels.  And the official U-3 unemployment rate doesn’t count a lot of people.  By the time you add in discouraged workers, the marginally attached and those working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job the unemployment rate increases.  With the U-6 number giving a truer picture of the employment picture.  Which currently stands at 14.3%.  And is a long way from the official 7.7%.  So even though the news reports are celebrating that the economy is improving because the unemployment rate fell from 7.9% to 7.7%, the U-6 unemployment rate stands at 14.3%.  Down from 14.4% in January 2012.  Which is pretty bad.  And little to celebrate about.

The U-6 Unemployment Rate counts all of the People who can’t find a Full-Time Job

To better understand these numbers we need to understand exactly who the people are that they are counting.  Who are the people that could be working.  Who are the people working.  And who are the people not working.  Which is all defined at Civilian Noninstitutional Population and Associated Rate and Ratio Measures for Model-Based Areas.  And summarized here:

The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.

Unemployment consists of all persons who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

The civilian labor force consists of all persons classified as employed or unemployed as described above.

The labor force participation rate represents the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population that is in the labor force.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percent of the civilian labor force.

The civilian labor force, then, equals the total of employed and unemployed people.  But note who they count as unemployed.  Only people who were looking for work during a 4-week period.  And those on a layoff subject to recall.  (Who didn’t have to look for work during that 4-week period.)  Which excludes everyone who gave up looking for work not subject to recall who can’t find a job.  People who are living on their savings, their credit cards, their spouse’s income, their retirement nest egg or even moving back in with their parents.  Or are working a part-time job or two because they can’t find a full-time job.  The U-6 rate counts all of these people.  Which is why it’s almost twice the official unemployment rate.  And why it’s a much better indicator of the employment picture.

The most Accurate Read of the Employment Picture is the Labor Force Participation Rate

So you now can see how the official unemployment rate can fall even though fewer people are working.  They calculate the unemployment rate by dividing unemployment by the civilian labor force.  And the smaller unemployment is the smaller the unemployment rate is.  Which it is when you don’t count all of the people who can’t find a job.  Which brings us to the labor force participation rate.  Which they calculate by dividing the civilian labor force (the employed plus the unemployed) by the civilian noninstitutional population (the total of the civilian population that could be working).  Which, like the U-6 unemployment rate, provides a truer picture of the employment picture.

The U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates improved in February.  Showing an improving employment picture.  While the labor force participation rate fell from 63.6% to 63.5%.  Which means those not in the labor force increased.  Going from 89,008,000 to 89,304,000.  An increase of 296,000 people who disappeared from the labor force.  Which is greater than the 227,000 new jobs created.  So even though the unemployment rate fell there was a net loss in jobs.  Which means the economy got worse.  Not better.

Mark Twain said facts don’t lie but liars figure.  And this is what he meant.  The employment picture is not improving.  But the government reports the 227,000 new jobs and the falling unemployment rate as signs of an improving economy.  But the most accurate read of the employment picture, the labor force participation rate, shows the economy is getting worse.  As everyone who is struggling in the private sector already knows.  So someone is lying.  And it isn’t the facts.  It is those who want to hide the damage the government’s policies are doing to the economy.  So they can keep trying the same failed policies of the past.  Keynesian economic policies.  Favoring more government intervention into the private economy.  While dragging out the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.  Another period of failed Keynesian economic policies.  For Keynesian policies are anti-business policies.  But pro-government growth policies.  Which is why liars figure.  And the labor force participation rate falls.

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The August Unemployment Rate falls to 8.1% as the Unemployed Quit Looking for Jobs that just aren’t There

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The August job numbers are out.  And they’re horrible (see Why unemployment rate fell: Fewer people seek jobs by CHRISTOPHER S RUGABER and Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press, posted 9/7/2012 on Yahoo! News).

The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July. But that was only because more people gave up looking for jobs. People out of work are counted as unemployed only if they’re looking for a job…

The number of people working or looking for work shrank in August by 368,000, the government said…

Here’s a milestone that’s difficult for President Barack Obama to brag about: There are 133.3 million Americans working — 261,000 short of the number when he was inaugurated in January 2009.

Democrats can talk all they want about new jobs they added each month with their policies but there has been no recovery.  Despite their exuberant cheerleading and the Recovery Summer of 2010 there are still fewer people working today than there were when President Obama began implementing his policies.  And it’s worse if you look at the U-6 unemployment rate.  Which measures people who gave up looking for work as well as those working part time because they can’t find full time work.  The August U-6 unemployment rate is 14.7%.  So the real unemployment rate is 6.6 points higher than the official rate.  Or 81.5% higher.

The Obama administration has tried just about every Keynesian tool in the Keynesian toolbox.  From stimulus spending.  To quantitative easing (i.e., printing money).  And here we are almost 4 years later with a U-6 unemployment rate of 14.7%.  Why?  Because Keynesian economics is just a way to empower government.  It does not create real economic growth.  Like policies that favor the stages of production.  Policies that create a business-friendly environment.  From resource extraction to industrial processing to manufacturing to consumer sales.

The Keynesians only focus on the last stage.  And leave in place policies that hurt the upper stages.  Which explains why their policies don’t create real economic growth.  While those who do focus on these upper stages of production have strong economic growth.  Like JFK.  And Ronald Reagan.  A couple of tax-cutters that created a business-friendly environment.  That generated the kind of economic activity that no Keynesian has ever matched.

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The U-3 Unemployment Rate shows an Improving Economy while the while the U-6 Unemployment Rate begs to Differ

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2012

Week in Review

With a presidential election coming up this year everyone is trying to talk up the good employment numbers.  Even well respected economic magazines (see Leaving the nest posted 3/9/2012 on The Economist).

As Jed Kolko of Trulia points out, this morning’s report included good news on that front:

“In February, the unemployment rate for 25-34 year-olds dropped to 8.7% from 9.0% in January and is at its lowest level in three years. The unemployment rate for all adults stayed steady at 8.3%. The recession hit this age group especially hard: their unemployment rate peaked at 10.6%, compared to 10.0% for all adults, but this gap is now closing. In February, 74.7% of 25-34 year-olds were employed (the rest were unemployed or not in the labor force because they’re in school, discouraged from looking or not looking for other reasons), up from 73.9% a year ago, but still way below the normal level of almost 80%.”

The unemployment rates they’re discussing are the U-3 numbers.  The ‘official’ unemployment rate as reported in the news.  Which has fallen.  Despite this being a ‘jobless’ recovery.  Which begs the question how can the unemployment rate go down when there are no new jobs to hire the unemployed?  Good question.  To answer it will require a brief discussion about arithmetic.  Because that’s how you calculate the unemployment rate.  You divide one number (let’s call it ‘A’) by another number (let’s call it ‘B’).  Multiply the resulting decimal number by 100 and you get a percentage.  Arithmetically it looks something like this: (A/B)*100.

Let’s say ‘A’ is the number of people unemployed.  You reduce the unemployment rate, then, by making ‘A’ smaller.  And there are two ways of doing that.  You either hire more people.  Or you don’t count everyone who can’t find a full-time job.  Which is what the U-3 unemployment rate does.  It doesn’t count the people working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job.  And it doesn’t count the people who have quit looking for work because they can’t find anything.  There is another unemployment rate that includes these people.  And it is a more fair representation of the jobs picture.  And explains the ‘jobless’ recovery.  The U-6 unemployment rate.

The U-3 rate may be at 8.3%.  But we know that’s not a fair representation of the jobs picture.  Because this so called ‘recovery’ is jobless.  And the U-6 rate explains how this ‘recovery’ can be jobless.  For the U-6 unemployment rate was 14.9% at the end of February 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Which is closer to the Great Depression unemployment rate.  And explains how a ‘recovery’ can be ‘jobless’.   Because it’s not a recovery.

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