NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

5.9 Percent Unemployment Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

October 7, 2014

The government released new figures last week indicating that unemployment had dropped to 5.9 percent, with 248,000 new jobs created in September. But are the numbers really something to cheer? Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, reminds readers to look behind the numbers. Consider:

  • While the unemployment rate fell in September, it was partly due to the drop in labor force participation. 97,000 Americans left the labor force last month, resulting in a participation rate that has not been seen since 1978.
  • Teen unemployment rose from 19.6 percent to 20 percent.
  • Unemployment among young workers -- those between 20 and 24 years of age -- rose from 10.6 percent to 11.4 percent.

Holtz-Eakin points out that hourly earnings did not change, nor did the average hours worked. Without higher incomes, the economy will not improve.

At the Wall Street Journal, Josh Mitchell reports that the unemployment rate was 11.8 in September, if you include part-time workers seeking full-time jobs, as well as "discouraged" workers not seeking jobs. Of the 9.3 million unemployment Americans who are looking for work, one-third of them have been employed for at least six months.

Source: Douglas Holtz-Eakin, "The U-6 Fix," American Action Forum, October 3, 2014.

 

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