The Big Lie of the US Unemployment Rate


Jim Clifton the CEO of Gallop – the polling group – wrote an article on LinkedIn On February 3, 2015 calling the official government unemployment statistics a BIG LIE.

I agree completely with Mr. Clifton’s assertions.

Clifton states in the article:

“If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.

There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.”

Simply, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates unemployment largely via this parameter: People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work.

Exceptions exist, of course, with all things government.  Seasonal workers, workers on strike, and students in college are exceptions, for instance.

Why should you care?  These numbers affect all in the United States.  In Mr. Clifton’s words, “Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older. We need that to be 50% and a bare minimum of 10 million new, good jobs to replenish America’s middle class.”

Think about that last paragraph for a moment when voting or writing your senator or representative.


unemployment photo

Photo by The U.S. National Archives

Mr. Clifton’s article is here: