When It Comes to Jobless Figures Dishonesty and Propaganda Reign

Once again we got a cheery report from most of the media about employers hiring, albeit “not enough,” and about the jobless rate falling, albeit “it’s still too high.”

The proximate cause of this latest round of propaganda from the corporate media is the latest monthly jobless figure reported out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said that employers had added 80,000 net new jobs (actually they found that private sector employers had added 104,000 jobs while public agency employers had pink-slipped 24,000 people), and that the official unemployment rate was 9.0 percent, just a notch lower than last month’s 9.1 percent figure.

The Associated Press, which is now the de facto national desk for the eviscerated national newsmedia, trumpeted these anemic results with a headline reading: Employers add 80K jobs, Rate dips to 9.0 pct. This was followed by an upbeat lead, credited to AP Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber (who surely should know better if he’s an economics specialist) that read: “WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. jobs crisis may be easing slightly on the strength of a fourth straight month of modest hiring and a dip in the unemployment rate.”

Only it’s not that simple. For one thing, economists agree that the economy would have to be adding 100,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the number of people who are entering the labor force, and double that to make any real progress towards lowering the jobless number, so 80,000 jobs is really going backwards. For another, most of the jobs being created are low-paying and often temporary, which is not going to do much if anything to boost consumer spending, which accounts for almost three-quarters of Gross Domestic Product in the hollowed-out US economy. (In fairness to Rugaber, a day later he wrote a better, less rosy piece, in which he pointed out that among the country’s 14 million officially jobless, the percentage receiving unemployment benefits has fallen from 75% last year to just 48% this year, because so many people have been out of work for more than a year–a third of all those unemployed–that their benefit checks have run out. That gives a hint about how serious the joblessness really is, though it ignores the reality that only half of those who lose their jobs even qualify for unemployment benefits in the first place.)

Credit goes to Yahoo! News, which at least acknowledged right away that these latest stats from the BLS mean things are basically bad, not good news. In this dispatch, headlined October Jobs Report: Deja Vu All Over Again, reporter Daniel Gross correctly called attention to the fact that the public sector was undermining the meager job gains made by the private sector, as well as the fact that the decline in the jobless figure is not the result of the new jobs, but of more people just giving up looking for non-existant jobs and being dropped from the statistics.
Real unemployment is around 23%, not the official BLS figure of 9.0% (Courtesy of Shadow Stats)Real unemployment is around 23%, not the official BLS figure of 9.0% (Courtesy of Shadow Stats)

Gross also properly noted that the so-called U-6 figure for unemployment, which was used as the standard measure for unemployment until the 1980s when it was deep-sixed by the Reagan administration in favor of a measure that no longer counts people who have given up looking for a job and people who have taken part-time employment because they cannot find full-time work, is still at 16.2 percent.

But even that doesn’t tell the whole horrible story about this Great Recession, or maybe we should say Second Great Depression.

For that we have to turn to the website Shadow Stats, which explains that back in 1994, the Clinton administration, also embarrassed by shamefully high unemployment, further rigged the books by defining long-term unemployed workers “out of official existence.” If those workers today were added back into the U-6 statistics, America’s real unemployment would be seen to have risen, not just this past month, but in prior months too, putting the rate at 23 percent, or nearly one in four of all workers.

Another figure that the BLS releases was also not repeated in most corporate media reports on the latest job numbers. That is the ratio of workers to adult working-age population. That number for October, 58.4 percent, is abysmally low. And it has been in the cellar for a long time. It started out this year at the exact same level, 58.4 percent, rose minutely to 58.5 percent in March, then fell to 58.1 percent in July, and has only returned to its January level now. But to really understand how bad this is, you have to look back not just to 2010, when it was as high as 58.7, and spent most of that year above 58.5, or to 2009, a nasty year for the economy, when it started the year at 60.6%. In early 2007, before this economic crisis began, it was at 63.3 percent, and back in 2001, it was 64.4 percent.

We are so far from those days in terms of getting the working people of America back on their feet that it would take years of ideal conditions to achieve, and we don’t have anything close to ideal conditions.

 The only “good” news to be had here is really that the joblessness isn’t accelerating, but seems to be in a depressed holding pattern.

Certainly this is nothing to cheer about, even meekly.

If you just received your news from the propaganda machine called the mainstream media, as so many Americans still do, you might find yourself wondering why all these people are braving increasingly harsh weather to occupy cities across the country, and especially the New York financial district. But when you see what the real picture is in numbers, occupying Wall Street and Main Street makes absolute sense, especially when you learn (not from AP!), that unemployment among young people, who have spear-headed the #occupy movement, is at 24.1 percent.