Wading Through the Economists' Smokescreen in Search of the Real Unemployment Rates

If the unemployment rates published by the Canadian and US governments were calculated the same way now that they were during the 'Great Depression", 80 years ago, we'd have close to 20 percent unemployment today in the US and 17.5 percent in Canada. Yikes! How can that be true you ask? Like a well, unemployment statistics is a deep subject. Since yesterday, just after the release of the latest US jobs figures and all the fiery language it generated, mr. mud has been trying to see through the smokescreens used by the economists and accountants to make the unemployment numbers look as cheery as possible so they and their paymasters, our dear leaders, can avoid the the torches and pitchforks for another month or two.

Unemployment rates are determined by who gets counted as what. So, the standard unemployment rate - the one we hear about every month - counts people who are actively searching for a job. Meaning, they filled out an application, sent in a resume, went to an interview in the last four weeks. This definition doesn't include any of the discouraged workers who have simply given up looking for a job because of a shortage of jobs in their locality or line of work; discrimination for reasons such as age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and disability; a lack of necessary skills, training, or experience; or, a chronic illness or disability. None of the statistics anywhere include the invisible homeless millions of illegal aliens, and others who remain undocumented and uncounted for by the census. So, The 8.1 percent rate that the media is quoting is not a full and fair picture of unemployment rates.

The number of Americans whom the U.S. Department of Labor counted as “not in the civilian labor force” in August hit a record high of 88,921,000. 368,000 people simply dropped out of the labor force last month and did not even look for a job. The U.S. population is roughly 311 million. Adults make up roughly 190 million of that total. The number of Americans out of work is 88 million. Only in the Orwellian world of government metrics can peoples' dropping out of the labor market translate to a lower unemployment rate and thus to a "healthier" economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US puts out a monthly report - The Employment Situation - that's gotta be the densest statistical and graph laden smokescreen ever published, but if a person can wade through the smoke long enough they'll find the cold hard, yikes inducing, numbers for themselves. But those numbers don't really tell the story of how 50 million Americans now need Food Stamps to exist, or the skyrocketing number of people stateside whose unemployment benefits have run out and are now seeking assistance via Social Security Disability Insurance as their only way out.

In Canada, there are less undocumented folks and a better social safety net, but our official unemployment rates are calculated exactly the same as they are in the US, our hidden unemployment ratios are disguised the way same too. Food Stamps or Food Banks, homeless shelters or tent cities, welfare or disability insurance - the names change but the underlying painful story doesn't.