As soon as I heard Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spew the following line after hearing of the February unemployment numbers, I immediately thought of Steven Colbert’s political comparison: Is George Bush a great president, or the greatest president?
Let’s hear it from Harry Reid himself:
Harry, let’s see if I can explain the difference between news that is less bad and good news. First of all, 36,000 people losing their jobs wasn’t a one day affair as your statement portrays, but it’s the number of jobs lost for the month of February. 36,000 less people now have a job than had a job at the beginning of February. Secondly, between 125,000 – 150,000 jobs need to be created each month to merely break even with population increases. So if you at the 36,000 that no longer have jobs to the 125,000-150,000 jobs that weren’t created to absorb population increases, you have a total shortage of 161,000-186,000 jobs for the month of February alone! And that’s good news?
While I try to give the benefit of the doubt to those who misspeak, I find it hard to do that with politicians that are so disengaged from those who are suffering. But here is Harry’s explanation:
“I want to talk about some remarks I made this morning — especially in the light of how they are being irresponsibly mischaracterized by those seeking to score more political points,” Reid said on his second trip to the Senate to the floor of the chamber.
Reid said the February report — unemployment was stuck at 9.7 percent — was “undeniably devastating.” But he argued that the situation could have been worse without the Democrats’ economic stimulus package.
Then Reid cautioned his Republican critics against celebrating bad news, The Hill newspaper reported.
“And I warn them, once again, that this country has no place, and no patience, for those who root for failure.”
Maybe unemployment would have been worse without the stimulus package, but that’s no excuse for such a careless statement. Harry quotes the standard U3 unemployment rate of 9.7%, but if he was honest, he would quote the U6 unemployment/underemployment rate, which actually increased last month from 16.5% to 16.8%!
[M]any seem to have missed that real unemployment, or the BLS' U-6 series actually climbed by 0.3%, to 16.8% from 16.5% in January. Additionally, the Non-Seasonally Adjusted U-6 number was barely changed, and was flat at 17.9%, just a hair away from January's record 18%.
Now let’s look at an even more chilling February employment number; the underemployed rate:
Also, just as relevantly, a comparable data series tracked by Gallup indicated the February “underemployment” came in at 19.8%, virtually unchanged from January's 19.9% reading.
After looking at a more complete picture of unemployment, it’s clear to see that “good news” is not a phrase which should be part of the unemployment discussion at this time.
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