Friday, October 19, 2012

Under-employment: Then and Now

    As long as I am picking on CNN this week, here's a story on underemployment, the lesser known cousin of the more popular unemployment rate.  Here are some excerpts from "Under-employed and under the radar":
The economic crisis has taken a severe toll on the nation's workforce. But while much of the discussion centers around layoffs and unemployment, a growing number of Americans are becoming under-employed - struggling to pay their bills on a smaller salary, or completely giving up on finding any work. 
Unemployment claims have climbed to 7-year highs, but the number of people who have settled for part-time work or given up on finding a job altogether is the worst it's been in over 14 years, but isn't included in the official unemployment rate... 
The under-employment rate, which counts those without jobs who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work, as well as part-time workers who want full-time jobs, rose to 11% from 10.7%, the highest rate since April 1994, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report.
    Those paying careful attention to the numbers and dates in the preceding paragraphs will have figured out by now that this was not a recent article.  Rather, this tale of gloom and doom (justifiably so) was published on October 3, 2008, about five weeks before the 2008 Presidential election.  Fast-forward exactly four years to October 3, 2012, and CNN published another story on underemployment just five weeks before another Presidential election.  This time, it's titled "September jobs report probably won't sway election":
Only two monthly jobs reports remain before the presidential election, but don't expect either of them to swing undecided voters. 
That's because, in all likelihood, both reports will show more sluggish job growth... 
"If the report is close to my expectations then it should not have a meaningful impact on the election," [Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics] said.  
Following Friday's jobs report, President Obama will probably continue to say the private sector has been adding jobs for two-and-a-half years. Mitt Romney is likely to point out that more than 20 million Americans remain either unemployed or underemployed.
Both will be right.
The article never actually gets around to mentioning the underemployment rate which stood at 11% in September 2008.  Currently, that rate is 14.7%.  What a difference four years makes.  And who's challenging the incumbent.

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