Saturday, February 07, 2009

Graphic Content, or Noise from the Speaker

I found the following graph on The Gavel, the blog of the U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.



As can be seen from the green line, the graph attempts to portray the employment situation in catastrophic terms. However, I was struck that the graph dealt in absolute terms, despite the fact that three different sets of years were portrayed. So I decided to see what data I could pull from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The workforce as a whole as been, in general, steadily growing over the past 19 years; 100,000 jobs in 1990 meant more to the economy than 100,000 jobs do now. So is the speaker's graph another edition of "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics?" Let's look at another measure: Unemployment rate.

This graph shows that, at least in terms of unemployment, 2008 has a whole lot in common with 1991 than the years of the Great Depression (double digit unemployment as high as 25%).

Employment as a percentage of the U.S. population has been consistantly above 60% since 1984. The recessions of 1990 and 2001 did little to change that ratio.


The 2001 recession still has employment above 60% of the population.





The percentages for 2008, amazingly, stay within the 60%+ band, albeit on a declining slope.






For the present, at least, it looks like we are headed to 1991 instead of 1929. That is not to say that the economy isn't in some difficulty, but hysteria never helped anyone make good decisions.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Thank you for looking this up; since people kept phrasing unemployment in the raw number of folks not employed, I thought it was something like this, but kept forgetting to look it up.

I had no idea that we'd had over 10% unemployment in my lifespan, though. (just barely-- 1983)

9:57 AM  

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