Monday, March 09, 2009

Is unemployment now approaching 15%?

The 8.1% unemployment rate is deceptive. That is the U-3.

If one wishes to compare unemployment now to unemployment in the 1930s, the closest analagous data is the U-6. The U-6 includes the unemployed, the discouraged workers and the under-employed workers (those who want full -time but can only get part-time due to economic reasons.)

In the 1930s, data was not kept as it is now. The estimates of unemployment during the 1930s came from applications for relief (both to public agencies and private organizations) and later included the applications to work for the WPA and CCC. There were no distinctions made between 'unemployed', 'discouraged' or 'under-employed.' Anyone who did not have enough full-time work no matter for how long, no matter whether they had applied for a job or not within 4 weeks and no matter if they picked up a few hours of work here or there was considered 'unemployed.'

The U-6 is now 14.8. That means out of every 20 workers approximately 3 are unemployed or have given up or have had their hours cut. And the number is growing and growing and growing......

The U-6 does not include all those whose hours have stayed the same but whose wages have been cut; or whose health insurance has been cut; or whose 401ks have been cut.

700 people have applied for 1 janitorial job in Ohio. The photos of job fairs, if viewed in black and white, could have been taken 76 years ago.

Still, the U-6 at 14.8% is the closest to the 1930s data. And by way of comparison it is either 1930 -31 (unemployment 1930 was 8.9% and in 1931 15.9%) or 1936 - 37 (unemployment in 1936 was 16.9 and in 1937 14.3.)
- from a letter to the New York Times

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