October 3, 2014

Haters and Kool-Aid Drinkers

As typically happens on the first Friday of the month, economists and reporters and politicians jump all over the job numbers. My politically oriented friends and I do the same, although our obvious lack of qualifications prevent us from doing much more than sharing what we see.

And speaking of sharing, a friend shared this graphic today; you'd be correct if you figured that he's a fan of Barack Obama, and that he believed this to be a positive statement. I mean, it's over 10 million jobs, it's over four and a half years of positive job growth, right? Some of his friends do not share the same ideology - not that there's anything wrong with that - and his post was immediately hit with negative comments about how the job numbers are a sham, the real numbers are much worse, and so on.

It was the exchanges on my friend's page that got me to today's post and the discussion about Haters and Kool-Aid drinkers. In today's discussion, the Kool-Aid drinker is obviously the Obama fan, and the Hater is obviously the anti- Obama guy.

Hater Dude decided to put up a couple of links in support of his comments, the gist of which is that the real unemployment figure is much higher, that there are lots of people who stopped looking or are under-employed, and so on. We hear this argument every month, but this time, courtesy of Hater Dude, I was able to get to the actual data about the mysterious U-6 unemployment rate, the one that the R's like much more than the official unemployment rate, which is the one that Dems like. What's the difference between the rates? According to the folks at Portal Seven, who know these things:
The U6 unemployment rate counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate) but also counts "marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons." Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the "marginally attached workers" include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking but still want to work. The age considered for this consideration is 16 years and over.
The nice people at Portal Seven were able to provide the real numbers for both rates; take a look at the comparison between the Democrat Unemployment Rate (DUR) and the Republican Unemployment Rate (RUR), using the numbers for September:
  • DUR: 5.9%, down 4.1% from the Obama-high 10.0%.
  • RUR: 11.8%, down 5.3%  from the Obama-high 17.1%

So: while the Haters point out that the RUR is high,they fail to mention that it's actually dropped by a greater percentage than the DUR has, comparing both to their highest points during the current administration. Doesn't that seem to indicate a more wide-spread improvement in the employment picture? 

Another poster on my friend's page pointed out that most of the jobs added were"low-end minimum wage service jobs" which is another common Hater refrain. Actually, the September report shows that over 171,000 of the 248,000 jobs added in September, if my math is right, have a pretty good wage -- over $20 per hour on average, more than double the minimum wage. 

I don't think there's enough Kool-Aid to make even the most steadfast Obama fan think everything's hunky dory, but there's clearly more behind the numbers that the Haters want to talk about. And while we may need more talk, to figure out how to continue building growth so that the DUR and the RUR continue to go down, we need action more than anything.  

Any takers? Anyone with a single concrete idea to make a difference that doesn't include hating or sugary beverages?