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143 Million Americans Defy Headlines by Going to Work

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Today the US Department of Labor released December’s unemployment statistics. Everyone was expecting bad news. Well, there was news. But “bad” is a judgement, not a fact, and the headlines reflect those Chicken Little expectations.

Carnage continues with 524,000 jobs lost in Dec.
Unemployment rate rises to 7.2%, the highest in 16 years

“Carnage” is a bit of a metaphorical exuberance, no? Folks were laid off from work, not flayed alive or dismembered.

There’s a rule of thumb to interpreting the media: When reporters opinionators use absolute numbers (524,000), the more useful and less sensational information is revealed by converting to a percentage. And the reverse, when a percentage is offered (7.2%), the more fully-objective truth is revealed by absolute numbers.

Let’s look at the actual DoL report. First, 1.007 million workers voluntarily left their jobs. Those people must not be too bad off, if they can just quit or retire. And 2.777 million who were not looking for work at all over the last twelve months have re-entered the job market and now count as unemployed. Perhaps these are all the spouses or relatives of job losers trying to make up for lost income. Unlikely, but it remains that they feel they can find work these days. Taken together, job leavers plus re-entrants, plus new entrants who have never had a job before, represent 3% of the civilian workforce. Or, for the math whizzes out there, over 40% of the unemployed are in that condition voluntarily.

There are 4.034 million who have lost their jobs permanently. I do wish that figure were smaller. But who are we talking about? Everyone. Unemployment is up, year-over-year, in every category (even government) in both absolutes and percentages. This is not so much news as confirmation of earlier reports about declining GDP. That the total of value added in the whole economy has dropped is reflected by the fact that there are fewer people working to add value in all sectors of the whole economy. So, is this the End of the World?

No. Year-over-year there are more management, professional, service, and installation/repair workers with jobs. The categories with fewer employed workers are construction, production, transportation and sales. Think homebuilding, automaking, travel, and the selling of those commodities. Workers at Chrysler, Hovnanian, Delta Airlines or your local GM dealers may feel their personal skies coming down. If some sky does hit them, we’ve added 316,000 healthcare workers in just the past month to help get them bandaged up. Looking at the whole picture, there are 143,350,000 people who remain at work. Or in percentages, 77% of the working-age population is employed.

Despite the headlines, and with a reasonable concern for people to have productive lives, the United States is a nation that works.

UPDATE: For those expecting doom, Gateway Pundit rewards you with the observation that unemployment has rocketed up to Clinton-era levels. Oh noz!

Via: Maggie’s Farm