Marc Yacht: What's really going on with jobs?

Debates are often driven by data, and each side of the issue will find figures supporting its position. Can such rhetoric be trusted? No!

The misuse of data can be shown with job growth claims on both sides of the aisle. Unemployment rates top the list of voter concerns. In Democratic states the Ds will tout job growth, the Rs will claim otherwise. And of course in Republican states, the opposite prevails. All will provide credible arguments. National claims continue the controversies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently stated 5.7 percent unemployment nationally. Can that number be trusted?

Scientists first define a problem before attempting solutions. In order to understand the U.S. employment figures, rules must be consistent. The political wars undermine important truths that leave voters confused and angry.

The data would suggest that having a paycheck means you are employed. Is that so? One must look at the quality of the job, is it full time (30-plus hours weekly), does it pay a living wage and is the family protected with health benefits? Finally, does the job represent the desired career path for the worker? Clearly, a poorly paid part time job should not be counted as employment. Should one who is unable to pursue his career goals be considered employed? A difficult question indeed and one that raises the issue of the underemployed. Perhaps the definition should extend to satisfactory employment and then be counted.

Who is counted as unemployed? If an able person is not working, they are unemployed. That is simple enough. However, if one is unemployed and has not sought employment for the last four weeks he/she is no longer officially counted as unemployed. Who came up with that one? Full time jobs have plunged while part time jobs have soared, yet the data suggest improved employment. Numbers do not tell the story.

Many discouraged Americans have simply stopped looking for work and official reports do not count them. Officially nine million Americans are out of work; improving the definition could add multimillions. It is suggested that the long term underemployment rate is substantially higher now than it was before the recession started.

One cannot ignore the elephant in the room sustaining the nation’s unemployment crisis – the weak labor market. It is clear that the private sector alone cannot solve unemployment, but there are solutions. Political posturing continues to undermine the middle class, increase poverty and reduce services to the needy.

An equitable tax structure would help. There are billions lost every year legally and illegally through U.S. tax law. It is estimated that corporate tax breaks alone cost $150 billion annually. Those loopholes should be closed, which would result in needed government services expansion – ergo jobs. Tax cheaters need to be identified and made to pay up.

Benefits to the unemployed should be extended. Such actions will reduce growing poverty and protect consumerism.

Private sector and government must understand they need each other to improve the labor market. Slashing government funding and minimizing essential services will increase unemployment.

Our political leaders must provide an accurate employment report. Without correctly acknowledging the problem, solutions will be elusive.

Dr. Marc Yacht is a semi-retired physician. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Marc Yacht


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