Photo: Fox News
The problem? 7.8% was the normal unemployment rate when Obama took office. 14.7 is what’s known As U-6, an alternate measure of unemployment that includes people not looking for work, and are unemployed.
U-6 is a totally legitimate number to look at, but you can’t compare it to U-3.
For an apples-to-apples comparison of U-6 from when Obama took office to now, here’s a chart.
As you can see, things have gotten marginally worse, though not terribly so… basically the trajectory is the same as the normal unemployment rate.
U-6ers (people who drop the number at random times to trick you) are really the bane of economics punditry.
And in fact they came up in the latest blog post of the new New York Times ombudsman, since some readers complained that a recent article on unemployment didn’t cite U-6.
The spot on response from Deputy Business Editor Winnie O’Kelley was this:
Ms. O’Kelley responded that she and her staff were well aware of the U-6 number, and that “we do look at it,” whenever The Times is reporting on unemployment.
However, “continuity over time is important. We use the official number of unemployed as the benchmark.”
It’s a number people understand as a basis for comparison, she said. “Generally speaking, the trends are similar.”
Everyone needs to be vigilant and stamp out U-6 wherever they see it.
UPDATE: One more interesting chart on the U-6 debate is this one.
The red line is the ratio of U6-U3. The blue line is just U-3.
As you can see, the ratio has remained pretty steady, and in fact during economic downturns, the ratio goes down. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary now about the relationship between U-6 and U-3 right now.
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