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July 29, 2003

1 in 5 Unemployed in Recent Years

Somehow, just looking around my circle of friends, a new report revealing that 20% of the population has been unemployed over the last three years rings true.

Other depressing facts about being unemployed in America, circa 2003, from the survey entitled "The Disposable Worker: Living in a Job-Loss Economy":

  • Two-thirds of workers laid off in the last three years received no severance package or other compensation from their employer
  • Only 49 percent of the ones who had earned $40,000 or more annually said they received unemployment insurance.
  • For those who made under $40,000 a year, the number with unemployment insurance shrinks to 35 percent.
  • Barely one-fourth of those surveyed said their employer extended their health benefits after they were laid off.
  • less than one-fifth said they received help finding a job, career counseling or skills training.
  • Thirty percent of those surveyed got only one to two weeks' notice their job was being cut, and 34 percent got no warning.

    And to emphasize once again why you shouldn't believe that unemployment is low compared to past recessions, check out this column by John Crudele in the NY Post. A couple big changes in how they count the unemployment rate compared to the last recession:

  • Last January the unemployment rate was "adjusted" downward by 0.2 percent for changes in surveying methods.
  • The government recently started seasonally adjusting its employment figures each and every month.
  • Back in the 1990s, the government changed the questions it asked in its household unemployment survey.
  • It lowered the number of people it canvassed in chronically underemployed inner cities.

    Whether the changes made any sense is besides the point; it means that comparing a number from 2003 to 1991 is comparing apples and oranges statistically. And Crudele notes that since the government survey of households (from which the unemployment rate is calculated) reports that there are 138 million jobs in this country and the survey of employers counts 129 million, just that 9 million person discrepancy in counted jobs should make you suspicious of the unemployment number stats.

    Posted by Nathan at July 29, 2003 08:27 AM