Thursday, January 28, 2010

Much Fewer than 10% of Americans are Unemployed

Both Democrats and Republicans last night said that "10% of Americans are unemployed."

That is incorrect. The United States Census Bureau says that 15 million Americans are unemployed. It also says that America's population aged 16+ is 237 million. The population including children (they're Americans too!) is 309 million.

15 million is 6 percent of 237 million and 5 percent of 309 million: the percentage of Americans 16+ who are unemployed is 6% and the percentage of all Americans who are unemployed is 5%.

Confusion arises because the "10% unemployment rate" commonly reported refers to the fraction of the LABOR FORCE that is unemployed. Millions of Americans are not in the labor force: many of them are willing stay-at-home-moms or stay-at-home-dads or gladly retired or children busy with school.

Of course, when there's "confusion", there are politicians who cite the incorrect statistic that miraculously happens to be biased in their favor (in this case, "in their favor" is to appear sympathetic).

In summary, unemployment (by the Census Bureau's definition) is currently 10% of the labor force, 6% of American adults and 5% of Americans.

1 comment:

TGGP said...

One could also argue that it is biased in the opposite direction, so the "percent not working" is a more relevant number. People who have given up looking for a job are a common example.