Today’s report on U. S. unemployment put the rate at 9.8%. That is bad news in itself, but what is worse is that the actual rate of unemployment is in the double digits. The Clinton Administration changed the way the number of the unemployed were counted by excluding those individuals who had given up and were no longer seeking work. Thus, since the mid-1990s the American public has been fed deceptive figures from the U. S. government.
Statistics is a legitimate field and a good tool for understanding a wide range of data. However, the validity of statistical methods depends on a number of items, including what population on which the data is based. Limiting unemployment figures to those actively seeking work or excluding those whose unemployment benefits were recently extended from government data on unemployment leaves out thousands, perhaps millions, of the unemployed. People stuck in areas with few jobs who cannot find work can easily become discouraged. Some live with family members and help around the house; others live the best they can on government assistance. They are not necessarily lazy people who do not wish to work; they have been beaten down so much by disappointment that they do not try to seek employment. But people who have not looked for a job in the previous four weeks or more are just as unemployed as those individuals who were laid off a week ago. The real unemployment level may be closer to the levels in the latter stages of the Great Depression–close to 15%.
The American people have the right to know the truth from their government. Both political parties have profited from downsizing the true unemployment rate. Congress should insist that unemployment figures include all the unemployed–but since lower figures benefit them, too, it is doubtful that anything will change too. If the American people put sufficient pressure on elected officials to force the Department of Labor Statistics to count all the unemployed, that is the only way the situation could change and the true statistics be revealed. People in power lie enough to the American people without their cynically manipulating the employment statistics to keep them in power.