I know an unemployed guy, I don’t want to give you his name. But I call him Bob. He’s a typical guy I guess, owns a grill, likes to gamble a bit. He’s pretty sharp. I drink beer with him. Anyway, Bob is a lifer in his industry, been doing it for nineteen, twenty years, something like that. He’s an expert, you know, because he’s been doing it so long, started basically as a kid and moved up from there. In fact, it’s the only work he’s ever done. Well, like I said, Bob lost his job recently. It’s been like six or seven months now, I think.
It’s been painful for him and his family. He’s a good guy, I feel terrible for him, worked at the company close to twenty years and now, at 48 years old, finds himself on the outside looking in. He told me the regular scenario is that he submits a resume, I think he mentioned Career Builder, and then checks the submission stats and usually, it’s like 150-200 folks have submitted to the open position. Those aren’t great odds. What HR person is going to read 150 resumes? None. Maybe fifteen or twenty, if that. So, Bob’s up against it. I mean, who wants to hire a 40-something lifer that’s going to want (or need) real money? Would you? Come on, let’s be real here, it’s a buyers market out there, employers can take their pick. What do you want – a 20-something? 30-something? Single? Minority? College Grad? Male? Female? You name it. It’s like buying a burger – have it your way.
And don’t give me any of that naïve “but that would be discrimination” crap. What, like it doesn’t happen? That’s exactly what is happening, guaranteed – each and every day, each and every opening, and you know it. And if you don’t know it, you need to pull your head out of the sand. Worse, if you won’t admit it…well, you and me won’t be drinking any beer together.
Anyway, I was pulling a couple back with him the other night and he told me this, so I thought I’d tell you. He’s part of the polls, the unemployment polls. That’s how they determine the unemployment rate. There’s like 2,000 reps and they phone interview 60,000 homes throughout the country. The rep then asks a series of questions about what you’ve been up to regarding work and that’s how they get their info. Then they take your answers and project out upon the population, based on the 60,000 interviews, what the unemployment rate is. I never knew that, did you? Shit, I thought it was computers purring and whizzing and printing out all kinds of charts and spreadsheets and Ph. D folks cross-referencing and checking for accuracy, you know, NASA kind of stuff. Turns out, it just some part-time telemarketers with check boxes on a sheet of paper. You know, for all the screaming and hollering by politicians you hear when the unemployment rate comes out each month, you’d think it’d be more official than it is. I mean, don’t president’s win and lose elections because of unemployment rates? Isn’t it a critical thing? Telemarketers? Aren’t policies like “stimulus” packages, and benefit extensions and maybe taxes based upon this? What if someone just makes up any old answers on the phone? What if a phone rep makes up the answers because they’re pulling for or fighting against the president? Who’s monitoring the accuracy of this? Checkboxes? What if the person doesn’t answer the phone?
Well, this whole thing got me concerned. So I looked up a few things. Turns out, they have a system and it goes like this:
People with jobs are employed. Makes sense.
People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work are unemployed.
OK, that’s pretty much how I define unemployed. But here’s where it gets strange.
People who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force.
I remember thinking, “not in the labor force? What the hell does that mean?” Well, here’s how it’s done: If you’re unemployed but don’t send out a resume or have a job interview, you’re not a worker. Yep, that’s right. So Bob leaves the state to take care of his sickly dad for a week, then, to the government, he’s not unemployed anymore – he’s not a worker. Do you get that? I sure as hell don’t. How can Bob be unemployed on say, Friday the 7th but “not part of the workforce,” on Friday the 14th? Now, I’m no Ph. D but that sounds pretty loopy to me.
I didn’t really get it so I sat down and thought long and hard about it. Here’s what I came up with: not in the workforce would obviously be those that won’t work, those that are too young to work and those folks that can’t work – injury or whatever disability. Also, we can throw in people that actually don’t work – on purpose – like homemaking moms, the retired, the independently wealthy, that type of thing. Well this is where I stalled. Is there anybody else not part of the workforce? If you’re of age, of capacity and willing, aren’t you part of the workforce? I put it on a piece of paper like this:
(Total population) minus (won’t work) minus (can’t work) minus (choose not to work) equals work force.
Doesn’t it? It seems like the government guys might have got this wrong. I mean, Bob is unemployed Friday, and then he still doesn’t have a job on the next Friday, then he is still unemployed, right? What does sending in a resume have to do with anything? He still ain’t working. What does having an interview or not having an interview have to do with it? He still isn’t getting a paycheck. Whether he’s home on the couch, in a chair at a job interview or with his dad, he is still unemployed. And if he’s still unemployed then…wait!
You don’t think they do that on purpose do you? You know, make up a little nonsense to slick the numbers a bit, make them look better than they are. Maybe they’re pulling some shenanigans. If you go to where I went you’ll see it’s a pretty huge document and really small print. Are they trying to slide something by us? Nah, it must be me. I mean, who am I? I’m just a regular citizen. Their smart and trustworthy. They’re the government.
All the same, maybe you should check it out – Unemployment – maybe I missed something.