The Current Unemployment Rate: Navigating a Bad Job Environment

by Jacques Sprenger on March 23, 2009

Reflecting on our current unemployment rate: we could top 8% through 2011! How is the nation navigating this bad job environment?

An Unemployment Rate Graph: How Education and Job Loss Are Related

With unemployment rates at a recent high these days, I thought to take a look at some factors that may be affecting these rates, perhaps to see what it is that we could do in order to gain an edge on finding a job these days.

This is what I stumbled upon — an interesting graph showing how over time, the unemployment rates are influenced by our education level:

unemployment graph, current unemployment rate, bad job environment
Image from Wall Street Pit

As you can see from the graph, unemployment rates vary significantly according to education levels; the highest rate affects people who haven’t graduated high school, followed by those who have. A college degree is still a valuable protection against unemployment in bad economic times. When prosperity is widespread, even workers with no high school diplomas do well (as seen in mid-2007).

Still, the unemployment graph shows that all educational groups have been affected by job loss. No group has escaped unscathed. What we typically see in the headlines (e.g. the financial crisis in the media) may tend towards sensationalism; the papers tell us about large towns like Detroit and New York getting hit hard by the downturn or financial companies crumbling due to the financial debacle of recent months. But let’s not forget just how hard this unemployment problem has hit middle class America, and how newly minted college graduates and manual workers alike are in the same boat during this recessionary period. This economic recession hasn’t spared anyone.

How Accurate Is The Current Unemployment Rate?

Do you ever wonder where the unemployment numbers come from? According to a very wise man: Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital (by Aaron Levenstein). Our government officials and statisticians may not be making it quite clear how the unemployment numbers have been formulated.

For example, reports say that the official unemployment rate is the result of phone calls made to 60,000 homes. But people tend to lie to surveyors who are inquiring about their real situation. If someone answering the phone is receiving food stamps while getting wages that are above the minimum allowed, will this individual confess? No, they’ll claim that they are unemployed. So who’s going to check?

Who’s Out Of Work In This Bad Job Environment?

In a nutshell, we don’t really know how many people are really out of work. Consider the person who holds two jobs; such a person is counted as two employees so that if one of his jobs is lost, it is considered by the government as one more individual unemployed. So let’s take these numbers with a grain of salt: instead, our own estimate in our geographical area should be a better barometer of what’s really going on. Sure, many college graduates have lost their jobs and they usually are the ones who appear in our local news discussing their plight; but the real victims are those who hold manufacturing jobs — the blue collar workers. Just check your local unemployment office to check the calloused hands of most applicants.

The Silver Lining To The Unemployment Problem

Despite the gloom, some news accounts are good: stimulus programs are now beginning to pick up and take root. New jobs are being created constantly, though they receive much less attention from the main media. For instance, at a time when major U.S. companies are announcing job layoffs almost daily, the renewable energy industry is hiring new workers every day to build wind farms, install rooftop solar arrays, and build solar thermal and geothermal power plants. Another large company, ATT, has the following announcement: AT&T Inc. plans to invest up to $18 billion and create 3,000 jobs nationwide this year, to keep pace with demand for wireless, broadband and video services.

So let’s stop listening to the doomsayers on national television; they are not giving us the full picture. Some of them may be peddling their sensational stories and twisting the news to accommodate their private agenda. Yes, we have a national economic problem and yes, we have a rise in unemployment. But I believe we’ll be able to emerge from this recession at least as strong as we used to be. Let’s try not to forget that!

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