Friday, April 6, 2012

DOL Reveals March 2012 Unemployment Statistics (Well, Sort Of)

This morning I awoke to CNN reports and Google News leads from Reuters, MarketWatch and other sources. Each of these news sources revealed there were 120,000 jobs created in March of 2012 while the unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent.

Economic experts hoped for more job creations—as much as 210,000 jobs but folks—that just didn’t happen.  

I tend to read these stories from so-called reliable sources and reporters with a grain of salt. If you really want the real numbers, go to the source itself—The Department of Labor (DOL).

Of course you will need to grab your calculator or maybe use the mathematical tools in MS Excel or those included on your new iPad3 or smartphone. Then again there are those that can add and subtract large numbers in their head—to these folks I say: congratulations! My fingers run out at 10—but if I use my toes I can get to 20!

I absolutely love what the DOL calls the “marginally employed.” Here’s a part of the DOL statistical report from March discussing how the marginally employed were counted in the March survey:

In March, 2.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.”

So of the 12.7 million unemployed, 2.4 million don’t count? In additional of those industries surveyed, only 70.2 percent participated. Sure, 70 percent is pretty good but why don’t so-called “reliable” news sources include these statistics instead of just announcing job creations and the current unemployment rate?

Also among the “marginally employed” the DOL reported:

Among the marginally attached, there were 865,000 discouraged workers in March, about the same as a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in March had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.”

Again, from the 12.7 million counted as unemployed, we need to subtract the 2.4 million from above, 865,000 discouraged workers that also fall on the “marginally employed” list and 1.5 million folks the DOL says are “marginally attached to the labor force.”

To me, deciphering the DOL reports and tables based on the above means of the 12.7 million unemployed workers, approximately 4.7 are counted as “marginally employed.” Really? So if I am unemployed but haven’t looked for work in the four weeks prior to the survey, I’m counted as being “employed?” Okay, where’s my pay check? Oh and by the by who is my employer?

I’m not mathematician but I sure would like some who are to take a look at the DOL tables and drop me a comment. A sort of Understanding DOL Tables for Dummies if you will.

I realize the 120,000 jobs created are real jobs and the DOL says these are all non-farm, private sector jobs, but those in the retail industry lost out—these jobs are down. Manufacturing was up—most likely thanks to the surge in the auto industry (this includes part suppliers as well). The healthcare industry also gained jobs along with food services, but by far, my favorite is the “drinking places” that employed more in March.

Let’s consider this a minute. If I were still “attached” to the workplace and considered “marginally employed” even if I didn’t have a job I’d be drinking too! The more marginally unemployed, the higher the need for bars and bartenders! This is a no-brainer really.

I guess the pressure’s on the DOL to report these statistics monthly—I mean it is an election year and the current administration is probably yelling for more stats, more tables, more complex yet really neat stuff Americans can read but not understand! More, more, more!

Again, can someone explain these statistics to this not-so-great-at-number-crunching blogger?

I have a secret fear that reporters these days are paid to only give the American people the bare basics. It would be nice if some of them didn’t just copy each other’s statistics and really delve into the DOL tables and confusing data.

I’m tired of, “according to Reuters” or “according to CNN.” I want a reporter to skip other news sources and write a report totally based on the DOL tables. A great report would be “According to the DOL” and that would be awesome!

Is that too much to ask?

So, leave me your thoughts or set me straight if you’re a math expert. If I don’t get back to you immediately, I’m most likely at my favorite drinking establishment talking with others who are marginally employed and wondering how the heck we are going to pay for the next round. Do bars take food stamps? Hmm?


  1. Great points a very amusing way!

  2. Thanks Linda,
    Fluff and more government fluff!