The danger of rubbery figures

Marcus Lestrange writes:  Re. “Business bites” (yesterday). Whoever claimed that the  unemployment rate falling to 5.7%, has taken leave of their senses. They have missed the point recently made by Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup (US) and noted by Roy Morgan in Australia, that:

“Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.

There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans (and Australians) know this.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find — in other words, you are severely underemployed — the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans (and Australians) know this”.

When will the Australian media, including Crikey, stop covering up the depression levels of unemployment both countries have?

Niall Clugston writes:  People love to read doom in China’s tea leaves, but I think Glenn Dyer takes the cake (Crikey, Monday). According to Dyer, “China’s economy seems to be sending rather alarming messages to the rest of the world about its declining health”. Such as? Well…”a record US$60 billion trade surplus” to be precise! At the same time, Dyer speaks in glowing terms about the American economy, which I’m sure would surprise someone in Detroit. This is wishful thinking masquerading as statistical analysis.

It’s the policies, not the people

Martin Walker writes: Re. “We are asking the wrong questions about the Liberal leadership” (yesterday). I agree that politicians should have to answer questions about their beliefs/ policies/ vision. For far too long we have been electing and paying (from the public purse), people we know little or nothing about. I believe the time has come for independent personality testing to be completed by aspiring politicians. After all, in business and many other areas, applicants must submit to this type of testing. Yet in electing politicians to some of the most important positions in the country, personality testing/ psychological type is ignored.

Les Heimann writes: “I will change, I will be more collegial, I will consult more, I will, I will, I will.” No you won’t, Tony. Thirty nine of his backbenchers know that and so do all his cabinet members. The next step is a big drop to nowhere with a new PM.Who will that be? I don’t think we really care much. We care about where this ultra-dry faction of the Liberal party want to take our country — and that’s the reason they are on the nose. It’s not the leadership; it is the direction, and that will not change.

What a disgusting bit of subterfuge was Tony Abbott’s forked tongue proposal to perhaps allow South Australia to bid for the Japanese submarines; and what a classical example of this hubris filled Liberal PM to flick a deal worth $40 billion to another country when around 100,00 auto workers in South Australia & Victoria are about to join the unemployment cohort. It’s the policies that are on the nose. Who cares about the leadership?