Monday, August 10, 2009

Employment Statistics Inaccurate

If you have 1,000 people, and 500 of them lost their jobs last year and don't have new ones, there is no upswing of employment.

If 250 more of them lost their jobs since, even though that's less, it does not account for the existing 500 who are still unemployed.

It might look like "recovery" since the "numbers" went down from last year's tally of 500 to 250, but in reality it's all based on that 1,000 people.

I'll illustrate how difficult it is to get a true picture of employment stats using our own family as an example.

We both lost our full-time jobs early on in the Slump that started prior to the big slide down. My industry at that time was tied to the construction industry. Jack's was a skilled technical job, and they shut down one of their divisions...the one he was in. Our home business was also construction-related, and that had to be closed down entirely.

Here's how we did and did not fit into any of the unemployment statistics to date:

Jack qualified for unemployment initially when he lost his technical job. After a time of doubling his commute for additional jobs, he saw that wouldn't work for the long-term and that his companies' policies were to hire young unskilled workers and to let go of their older lifetime-career employees who were nearing him.

So he chose another industry that paid less, and trained for it, and became employed in it, at half the pay and no guarantee of regular hours, and with no benefits. (Why? because it's in an industry necessary regardless of the economy, and more skilled jobs here became very scarce and fiercely competed-over. Thus, better to have some job, even a lesser one, than no job. And we began seeing self-sufficiency being more of our goal and care less about HOW to get there...having our self-sufficient homestead is more of what we consider our ultimate job...but back to the topic)

This industry is likely to be a bit more depression-proof than some, but it's still affected, and it's one in which his schedule is an on-demand one...there is no full time 40 hours guaranteed or assigned because they work employees one or two hours below what would qualify them as full time. Why? So they don't have to pay unemployment if an employee is let go for any reason, and don't have to pay overtime if an employee has to fill in for someone else if an emergency arises. It's not specific to his's a policy specific to that industry at large. He knew that, but it's what was at hand and available, and nothing else was.

Backing up, I was working fulltime in an industry hinged to Construction. But I could never qualify for unemployment no matter how many hours I worked...why? Because that company had become very cautious in taking on any more employees and hired all the new ones via temp agencies. I applied directly to the company, but before hire had to go register with a temp agency and was paid through them and officially considered their employee. This disqualified me for any regular benefits from the industry I was working in, and disqualified me from unemployment benefits if my job ended. The company responded to the big economic slump by laying off a big percentage of the employees. I survived the first cut. I did not survive the second. It was mandated from Corporate, and my boss fought to keep me on, but unless she would have contracted to pay me from her own pocket, my job got cut...which it did, and ultimately she herself and the other employees are no longer there, with the exception of the receptionist.

So I went from fulltime to nothing, and the unemployment figures would never have reflected my job loss since they are based on people filing for unemployment.

Since then, I worked at a number of jobs, none of which qualified for unemployment since they were not hiring for 40 hours a week. I trained for a 911 job and the training lasted several months and it was fulltime (and then some), but the training period was exempt from being counted since it was a probationary period. After those months, my stress level was pretty incredible and though I'd hoped it was the right job for me, it exacerbated into regular anxiety attacks and made the decision to find another career...again.

So another job loss, my choice, but of course not eligible for unemployment.

So I trained for the same industry my husband is now in, and the same conditions apply to me as apply to him...we work double the commute, share a vehicle, and sometimes he will work 50 hours a week...or 8...depending on how much he is called in, and over which he has no control. We work for different companies and mine has the policy to not schedule for fulltime, so I work more regularly, but just under what would qualify elsewhere as "fulltime" hours.

So if either of us lost our jobs, neither of us would be eligible for unemployment.

And if you think we haven't been looking for other jobs in the meantime, that's not accurate. They simply are not to be had within an hour commuting distance and more any direction from where we're located.

At this point we're VERY fortunate that we're able to accomodate two schedules with one vehicle.

The reason I'm typing all this is to illustrate that a lot of companies have responded to the downturn by cutting back on their employee numbers and hours in order to stay in business and not have to lay off more people, or shut their doors. It's not their fault. But it disqualifies us from filing for unemployment, and that is the statistic that's used today to measure unemployment trends.

That's not to mention our home business, which as I said was tied to the Construction industry. We were small players, a very small business. But the folks we paid were contracted out, and when we closed down, that was business they didn't have any more. And, again, we were unqualified as a statistic if based on people filing for unemployment...but it was a business closing and a lot of other businesses lost business when we did.

We are very unimpressed with monies handed to big corps to help them survive, and pretty much think it's unconstitutional. But that's another whole subject.

If you count the span of months in which we were unemployed while we were training for a new job (on our own dime and time), or were unemployed but not eligible for any unemployment money, I think we're more typical of a lot of Americans.

And so that means that since 2006 and our both having and losing a number of jobs, the statistics would only show that ONLY one job was lost in 2006, if based on unemployment filing stats. NOT accurate for us...not at all.

And the numbers will never reflect the truth of those situations...our own very real situations.

Especially for those who have become jobless, don't qualifty for this and that, and have not been able to find new jobs. Or who have, but those jobs are part-time jobs that will never show up accurately in polls and data.

That's why I'm unimpressed with the way numbers and "facts" are thrown around as a supposedly accurate measurement of employment.

They're really not. Which is's the nature of the limitations that come with that sort of collecting. But when I hear politicians lecture Thinking Americans as if they're small children, it's insulting to me, and when they back up many of those diatribes with data, that data represents ACTUAL humans with ACTUAL lives...and it's not accurate.

And if you measure new job starts, be sure to also measure businesses that are closing or laying folks off....let's shoot for the more accurate picture.

I hope people will non-violently insist that their voices be heard about the important issues at hand, even if town hall meetings are now discouraged...go and legally get the paperwork for your own meeting, or have a legal Sit In and hold up your signs. Your hand holds the vote for your representatives and it's OUR voices that count. Calmly, lucidly. Refuse to be bullied and to be bullies. No one can close down our right to assemble peacefully to have our voices heard. The day that happens, it's a police state.

A final note......

we don't need our government as our Protector. Our constitution provides that we have the right to protect ourselves. When the government becomes Protector, again, that's just another word for Police State.

No thanks.


Anonymous said...

You make an excellent point on statistics. In my statistics class, they preached on how numbers can be manipulated to show whatever a person wants to show. Be wary of how data is collected and reported. I have taken the general stance of not listening to those stats and watch what is actually happening around me.
Great post, Robbyn!

Donna said...

This is an excellent entry, filled with more common sense than six month's worth of television newscasts.

Donna said...

By the way, I linked to this entry from my blog.

Robbyn said...

Thanks, Amanda :) I wish I could have finished college and taken a Stats course myself (someday!) But at least I can tell something is off based on our experience and those we see around us. I wish I knew the jargon to express it more accurately.

Donna, thanks :) Isn't it hard sifting through the glut of numbers we get thrown at us? So hard to see beyond the bias...I guess that's our constant challenge, eh? :) Thank you for the link

Lindie said...

Came here via Donna. Was very impressed with your clear thinking. Wish you would forward this to Fox news or O'Reilly and have him read it to his viewers!

Wendy said...

There are several blog sites online that predict the actual unemployment numbers are closer to 20% rather than the sub-10% that the news is reporting.

I loved your explanation of the job loss numbers though, and it's true. If we start with 1000 jobs, lose 500, and then another 250, the second quarter loss doesn't mean things are getting better. There are still 750 people without jobs, and a company that is now only employing one-quarter of its former number, which means if the company is showing profits, it's because it cut its labor force (the biggest cost, by far, for most companies) to the bone, but it doesn't mean that it's making any more money. It just makes me crazy that people buy into the talk of "recovery", when it's pretty clear that no such thing is happening.

I live in a resort community in a state that relies heavily on the tourist industry. We've had a pretty busy summer, but with the bad weather, many of our tourist-centric businesses have not done well. But more than that, these places are only seasonal employers, and it will be interesting (but not in a cool way) to see the numbers in September when the seasonal businesses close and those people who worked there need to find new jobs.

Couple that with the tomato blight that's killed off most of our local tomato crop and affected a large portion of the potato crop, and ... well, it's not looking pretty. I think we're in for a very tough winter - if the price of oil increases, a lot of people up my way will be pretty screwed.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, I too live in a resort community (The Homestead, Hot Springs VA). Business has been so bad at the hotel that they close the main dinning room every Wednesday and then another dinning room on Monday's. These guests then need visit one of the few local eateries for dinner. The hotel is also offering some wicked cheap specials in an attempt to get people to come to the area.
We moved from oil heat to wood last year and saved a ton of money, even with my paying on the loan! I am apprehensive to see what happens this winter. We may be taking in family that cannot afford to heat their homes!

jack-of-all-thumbs said...


You've written a much needed counterweight to the statistics, which I'm passing along in my little circle.

Thanks and best of luck.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Came via Self Sufficient Steward. Thanks for the stats :o)

Anonymous said...

Very true about it not being a true accurate picture. Great post!

Robbyn said...

Lindy, thanks for the encouragement :)

Wendy, it's sobering, isn't it? we're in a tourist area, too, in general and many of the things you mention apply to this location, too

Annette, it's so great you were able to switch to a better heating system...can't wait till we're able to do the same for cooling/heating, too :)

JackOAT, thanks for the encouragement!

Ken, welcome and thanks for stopping by :)

NotesFromFrugalTrenches, hey girl! Just peeked at your blog and you're certainly keeping busy and doing such a great job with your inspiration :) Can't wait to see what your upcoming project you mentioned is...

Christina said...

WOW.... I never thought about that!

I mean I know you can NOT rely on published statistics from biased sources, which the government certainly is. But, I just never thought how out of balance it could get.

Have a great day!

Gina said...

Excellent points. I can so relate to being under the statistics radar. DH was given a route in his non-traditional job, but the "route" was an on-call status during their slowest season. This basically meant an unpaid furlough and he was not eligible for unemployment because he basically still had a job. We did not have an income coming in.

The numbers are skewed.

Hope things eventually look up.

Anne said...

People who actually believe in the latest headlines or the latest poll need to have their head examined. YOU have everything right in your post. People need a hand UP not a hand out. Common sense in Washington is unheard of. I wish our reps would live the life of the common man/woman to understand the lack of progress. Anne

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that any job is better than no job but that's probably because of my age. Lost my job Aug. 2009, stayed on unemployment 20 months and dropped off because I decided I wasn't going back to work. Have just enough $$ to make it to 62 if I live at poverty and oddly, poverty is preferable to the way I was being treated. Have become more frugal and self-sufficient.

Robbyn said...

southernruralroute, hi! It's nice to know this post is being read even after three years~! And I so agree with your caveat that sometimes the way people treat us at some jobs they simply aren't worth the stress. I believe some jobs are not worth the physical and emotional price, and there literally are some jobs no one could pay me to work, or to return to working on. There is one thing I am still very convinced of and that is that we all need work, even if that work is what we choose to do that doesn't receive a paycheck per se. Raising a garden, making a home for a family, being vitally involved in the betterment of our own lives and possibly that of others...still a CAN DO attitude. We've found that to true as you have that living on less and staying home when possible is actually more what we can live with for the long run, as it relates to my husband's upcoming retirement. With what we pay in gasoline, clothing, etc etc, living on his small retirement may be the ONLY way we can make it when all is said and done. I respect those who do what it takes (legally) to keep afloat in times like these! My article was focusing on how the media likes to massage "data" for its own ends even though it is not always accurate. Thanks for your comment!