That unemployment rate the drive-bys regularly quote to you is actually a percentage of the “workforce.” In economics, the “workforce” is defined as that portion of the population, of working age, who are employed in civilian or military jobs. People who are unemployed, but actively seeking work, are also included as part of the workforce.
Who gets excluded from the calculation of the workforce? People in prison. Full-time students. People under 16 and retirees over 65. Also, people who are deemed medically unable to work and people who have given up on looking for work.
There are an awful lot of people in Raleigh cheering the employment situation. Let’s take a closer look to see how much there really is to cheer.
North Carolina’s current population is estimated at 9,862,206. The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates our state’s total workforce at 4,674,100.
According to BLS figures, in February 2014, there were 4,660,100 people in the state’s workforce. The bureau calculated that there were 297,100 people unemployed that month for an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.
In March 2014, the BLS calculated North Carolina’s civilian workforce at 4,668,500. There were 295,500 people unemployed that month for a total rate of 6.3 percent. So, the calculated workforce grew by 8,500 from the previous month, while the total number of unemployed fell by 1,600 people.
In April, the BLS calculated the state’s civilian workforce to be 4,679,500. There were 292,100 unemployed, for a total rate of 6.2 percent. The workforce was bumped up by 11,000 from the previous month, while the number of unemployed fell 3,400.
In May, the workforce was calculated at 4,699,200. The total number of unemployed in North Carolina reached a high for the year at 301,500. The rate that month was 6.4 percent. There were 39,100 more people in the workforce this month than in February. There were 5600 more unemployed in May than in February. Yet — with the drive-bys simply reporting the percentage — we’re given the impression that things in May were just as good as they were in February.
In June, the workforce in North Carolina was calculated at 4,688,700. (A drop of 10,500 in one month.) The total number of unemployed was reported at 299,200 for a total rate of 6.4 percent. (A drop of 2,300 in one month.) We’ve got 28,600 more people in the workforce than in February. We’ve got 2,100 more people defined as “unemployed.” Yet we have the same unemployment rate.
In July, our workforce was calculated at 4,674,100. We had 304,500 people defined as “unemployed” — a record high for the year. That’s 5300 more people unemployed since the previous month. The total workforce for July dropped by 13,100 from the previous month. (You would think, with school being out for the summer, the workforce would go up.) The unemployment rate was reported at 6.5 percent.
The point here? We’ve got a lot of politicians campaigning for two to four (or six) more years with their hands on our money. They’re going to play with numbers to make things look as good — for them — as possible.
People dropping out of the workforce is a bad sign for our state and our country. Backing off of regulatory meddling would be a great place to start in putting people back to work. But the politicos in the ruling class are not going to do anything like that on their own. We’ve got to hold their feet to the fire.