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How the government manufactures low unemployment numbers

Published time: February 03, 2012 17:27
Edited time: February 03, 2012 21:27
(REUTERS / Jason Reed)

(REUTERS / Jason Reed)

Figures released Friday by the US Labor Department declare that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent. While economists applaud the latest news, the reality is improvement comes only after 3 million jobless Americans are unaccounted for.

While job creation exceeded expectations for January, those experiencing long-term unemployment — those jobless for longer than six months, that is — remains at a record high.

In a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, it’s revealed that those suffering the longest from the unemployment epidemic exceed any monthly statistic dating back to the Second World War. The Labor Department figures that 5.5 million would-be workers have been without employment for 27 weeks or longer, accounting for around 42.9 percent of the total tally of unemployed Americans.

The consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies based out of Washington estimates that as many as 3 million additional unemployed workers have been without jobs for just as long but are not taken into consideration by the US government. For those unfortunate many, the Department of Labor simply stops including them in statistics once they are determined to have simply “given up” on the job hunt. They add in their study, however, that even if bettering economic conditions prompt those considered to have given up to reevaluate the job hunt, the government’s “official” unemployment rate may once again surge to unfavorable numbers as the country’s still staggering economy would not be able to create work for them.

Additionally, the government has identified around 2.8 million Americans “marginally attached” to the job market in January. Per their own definition, that accounts for those who want to work and have looked for working during the last year but have not concentrated their efforts on the job hunt during the last month. They are also not accounted for in the Labor Department’s unemployment figure.

Speaking on Thursday before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke addressed the issue. He admitted that the US economy “has been gradually recovering from the recent deep recession,” but called long-term unemployment figures still “particularly troubling.”

“More than 40 percent of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months, roughly double the fraction during the economic expansion of the previous decade,” explained Bernanke. “We still have a long way to go before the labor market can be said to be operating normally.”

Gus Faucher, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services, adds to the Washington Post, “We’ve dug a big hole, and though we’ve been filling it in, we’ve still got a lot more to go.”