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What is The Real Rate of Unemployment in the United States?

What is The Real Rate of Unemployment in the United States?

Courtesy of Larry Doyle at Sense on Cents

Just what is the true rate of unemployment in our country? Our headline U-3 rate is currently 9.5%. Our U-6 rate, more broadly defined, is 16.5%.

Many people are aware of the differences between U-3 and U-6; however, renowned economist John Williams takes our analysis to an entirely new level. Williams is far ahead of the curve in his work.

William is likely not a regular on the Washington cocktail circuit. Why’s that? He goes far deeper in his work and exposes inconsistencies, if not worse, in government statistics. Let’s learn more about Williams and his work at Shadow Government Statistics:

Walter J. “John” Williams was born in 1949. He received an A.B. in Economics, cum laude, from Dartmouth College in 1971, and was awarded a M.B.A. from Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in 1972, where he was named an Edward Tuck Scholar. During his career as a consulting economist, John has worked with individuals as well as Fortune 500 companies.

Formally known as Walter J. Williams, my friends call me John. For nearly 30 years, I have been a private consulting economist and, out of necessity, had to become a specialist in government economic reporting.

One of my early clients was a large manufacturer of commercial airplanes, who had developed an econometric model for predicting revenue passenger miles. The level of revenue passenger miles was their primary sales forecasting tool, and the model was heavily dependent on the GNP (now GDP) as reported by the Department of Commerce.

Suddenly, their model stopped working, and they asked me if I could fix it. I realized the GNP numbers were faulty, corrected them for my client (official reporting was similarly revised a couple of years later) and the model worked again, at least for a while, until GNP methodological changes eventually made the underlying data worthless.

That began a lengthy process of exploring the history and nature of economic reporting and in interviewing key people involved in the process from the early days of government reporting through the present.

For a number of years I conducted surveys among business economists as to the quality of government statistics (the vast majority thought it was pretty bad), and my results led to front page stories in the New York Times and Investors Business Daily, considerable coverage in the broadcast media and a joint meeting with representatives of all the government’s statistical agencies. Despite minor changes to the system, government reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last decade or so. (LD’s emphasis)

What does Williams think about the inherent bias and changes in government models and results generated? He is not bashful in asserting:

Have you ever wondered why the CPI, GDP and employment numbers run counter to your personal and business experiences? The problem lies in biased and often-manipulated government reporting. (LD’s emphasis)

So then what does Williams view as the true rate of unemployment?

Regrettably, boys and girls, by Williams’ measuring stick, unemployment in our country is currently close to 22%.

What do you think about these relative measures? Whom do you feel truly captures our current economic health? My personal opinion is that our overall economy feels like unemployment is far closer to Williams’ measure than that produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For those who prefer pictures to words, what does unemployment look like in terms of our changing economy? Thanks to a friend for sharing the following:

As another friend of mine has told me numerous times, “Larry, it is a privilege to work.”

He’s right.

LD 

Picture credit: Jr. Deputy Accountant 


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