Media’s Unemployment Stats Inaccurate?

Let's get our definitions straight

As conditions in the economy continue to worsen, it can only be expected that unemployment rates, especially here in NYC after the Wall Street fiasco, will continue to rise. This comes just two weeks after the nation’s unemployment rate reached its highest level since 2003—a whopping 6.1 percent—according to the Department of Labor.

But, as Katherine Aaron of the Center for Public Integrity reported here, those statistics don’t accurately represent the reality of the situation. According to Aaron, the official unemployment rate publicized by the Dept. of Labor, as well as most of the media, doesn’t account for three sects of workers.

One group, known as “discouraged workers,” is comprised of workers that are neither employed nor looking for work because of a “job-market related reason.” In other words, these “discouraged workers” have given up the job search because they’ve had no luck in the hunt.

These workers are then clumped into a larger category known as “marginally attached workers,” defined by the Dept. of Labor as:

Neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past.

The last unrepresented group is made up of individuals working part-time out of necessity, not choice. When all three groups of workers are added into the equation, the unemployment rate skyrockets to 10.7 percent, which is up from 8.4 percent last August.

Hopefully, this broader definition of unemployment will be of concern to public officials, and reporters, when it comes to addressing issues relating to the economy. (Hint, hint, Jim Lehrer. We hope you haven’t finalized your questions for Friday yet.)

Take a look at other Dept. of Labor statistics here.

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Megan McGinley is an intern at CJR.