The September headline read, “U.S. Created 128,000 Jobs in August as Wages Rose.” Translation: It’s time to rejoice — that is, until we take a good, hard look behind these figures. It turns out they’re quite misleading. Why?
Consider a young lady who loses her job, in which she was earning about $30,000 a year. Unable to find another full-time position, she takes three part-time jobs waiting tables in restaurants. Her total income is now about $20,000 a year. But since she holds three positions, she has added to the total number of jobs in the United States.
A recent cartoon shows a customer at a fast-food counter engaged in a conversation with the waitress. “Do you know,” he says, “that the number of jobs in the country is growing?” She replies: “Of course. I used to have one job, and now I have three of them.”
In calculating the number of people who are employed, she is counted three times over. But even allowing for this distortion of the facts about the number employed, Labor Department figures disclose that the number of people employed this year was about 50,000 jobs a month less than last year.
Equally disappointing are the earnings of workers in nonmanagement positions. Last month, the wages of workers inched up 2 cents an hour. But this increase is not “real,” because it is not adjusted for inflation, which in recent months has been at about 4%. For those who drive to and from work, the inflation rate is, of course, much higher.
As proof that the economy is on the mend according to official sources, it is noted that the actual jobless rate is decreasing. But the reason for the reported decline is distressing. There are thousands of people who are on in years, who have been looking for a job without success. They have stopped looking. They are officially listed as “discouraged workers.” These unfortunate souls are not counted as unemployed — although they are.
So what do we learn from all of the above? Well, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.