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There are plenty of reality-based criticisms of US economic performance under President Obama. This sort of click-bait distortion, via the Washington Examiner, is unnecessary and unhelpful:
Don’t believe the happy talk coming out of the White House, Federal Reserve and Treasury Department when it comes to the real unemployment rate and the true “Misery Index.” Because, according to an influential Wall Street advisor, the figures are a fraud. In a memo to clients provided to Secrets, David John Marotta calculates the actual unemployment rate of those not working at a sky-high 37.2 percent, not the 6.7 percent advertised by the Fed, and the Misery Index at over 14, not the 8 claimed by the government. Marotta, who recently advised those worried about an imploding economy to get a gun, said that the government isn’t being honest in how it calculates those out of the workforce or inflation, the two numbers used to get the Misery Index figure. … “Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent” [Marotta explains].
David John Marotta didn’t calculate much of anything. He just went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site and looked up the current labor force participation rate, which 62.8%. (See above chart.) He then subtracted that number from 100 to get 37.2%. Math counts! Now, the participation rate measures what share of adults are working or looking for work. But just because you don’t fall into either of those categories doesn’t mean you are “unemployed.” Maybe you are choosing to go to college or stay at home with the kids or retire. Or maybe you are discouraged and have simply stopped looking for work.
Explaining the sharp drop in the participation rate since 2007 — particularly how much is demographic vs. structural vs. cyclical — is the subject of much academic research and debate. As it turns out, the Wall Street Journal has a recent piece on the participation rate, and why the strengthening economy isn’t drawing people back into the labor market;
In December 2007, the month the recession started, 66% of the working-age population either had a job or was looking for one. That share fell during the recession and has continued dropping ever since. In September, participation dropped to 62.7%, the lowest since 1978, and remains near that level.
Some decline in the labor force was expected as the massive baby-boom generation born after World War II began turning 60 and retiring by the millions, in the mid-2000s. Few retirees return to jobs. Around 18% of those over age 65 are in the workforce. The decline in boomer participation isn’t the sole reason behind the decline. Another big explanation could be that people who drop out amid a bad economy can’t easily be enticed back. Economists call this labor-market scarring. People find other ways to get through life, even precariously, by relying on friends and family, going on disability or retiring early. “You can leave for economic reasons, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to come back for economic reasons,” Mr. Feroli said. Determining the cause and finding solutions for depressed participation has important implications.
Marotta’s simplistic, misleading analysis may create a neat talking point or get a Drudge hit, but it lowers the quality of public debate about America’s job market woes. (It also feeds a certain conspiratorial impulse.) Here is an actually useful take on what’s happening with US workers from this month’s big Washington Post series.