Mindless tips and other “helpful” suggestions

I spent part of the weekend doing the search-for-actual-good-job-hunting-tips. I spent MORE time laughing. I’ve decided that either people are far dumber than I actually think (which is scary. . . given my thoughts around most of the species) or there is a genuine lack of unwillingness of anybody from HR people, to placement agencies, to college career offices to say “yes, the economy sucks. if you lose your job, unless you are a renter with in-demand skills (the great unknown), chances are you are screwed for a bit of time.”

Let’s face it: the unemployment rate is roughly 8.5% in the “official” count.  How is unemployment calculated? Good question. I thought it was social security numbers with money paid in – those who are claiming divided by the number of people with social security numbers who are over 21 (or a similar matrix, let’s face it, we are never going to capture the true number with things like maternity leaves, medical leaves, stay at home parents, people who return to school after working, etc) but a way to get the number that is a close approximation.  Nope.

This is from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics – that is the federal government’s department RESPONSIBLE for determining such things as unemployment. This method they have used since 1940 (or longer than my retired parents have been alive):

“Each month, 2,200 highly trained and experienced Census Bureau employees interview persons in the 60,000 sample households for information on the labor force activities (job holding and jobseeking) or non-labor force status of the members of these households during the survey reference week (usually the week that includes the 12th of the month). At the time of the first enumeration of a household, the interviewer prepares a roster of the household members, including their personal characteristics (date of birth, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, veteran status, and so on) and their relationships to the person maintaining the household. This information, relating to all household members 15 years of age and over, is entered by the interviewers into laptop computers; at the end of each day’s interviewing, the data collected are transmitted to the Census Bureau’s central computer in Washington, D.C. (The labor force measures in the CPS pertain to individuals 16 years and over.) In addition, a portion of the sample is interviewed by phone through three central data collection facilities. (Prior to 1994, the interviews were conducted using a paper questionnaire that had to be mailed in by the interviewers each month.)

Each person is classified according to the activities he or she engaged in during the reference week. Then, the total numbers are “weighted,” or adjusted to independent population estimates (based on updated decennial census results). The weighting takes into account the age, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, and State of residence of the person, so that these characteristics are reflected in the proper proportions in the final estimates.”

The federal government says this sampling is effective – reality? As a line from The West Wing (paraphrased): No, there aren’t more poor people, we are just counting them correctly.  Which administration wants to be known as the administration that actually discovered MORE unemployed people.

The site continues to explain how these “highly trained” samplers obtain their data:

“Mrs. Jenkins tells the interviewer that her daughter, Katherine Marie, was thinking about looking for work in the prior 4 weeks but knows of no specific efforts she has made. Katherine Marie does not meet the activity test for unemployment and is, therefore, counted as not in the labor force.”

Wait a minute: in a court that would be hearsay.  Mrs. Jenkins’ doesn’t KNOW what her daughter did or did not do: shouldn’t the correct tag be “unknown status” (let’s put it this way, how many parents really know if a teenage kid put in a job application or not? I’d hope more than I think is probably true. . . ).

Another issue: according to the 2000 census (I can’t find the breakdown for 2010), there were 105,480,101 HOUSEHOLDS according to the US Department of Census

In short? The US Government for the past 71 years has been calculating the unemployment rate in some backwards manner by which they interview (at the maximum) .006% of households in the US. Yup. I feel real secure in the data.  But then again, one of the sites I read said that if you have been unemployed for more than 6 months, you are unemployable.  I think I’ll file that under how the federal government calculates the data.

But since I can poke holes in the data, does anybody have a job for me that uses these sort of skills? I’m sure it’s valuable.


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4 Responses to “Mindless tips and other “helpful” suggestions”

  1. Randy Pena Says:

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. Titus Says:

    The data is out there. Why don’t you figure out the real statistics and submit an op-ed to a few major papers starting with the NYT & WSJ and make a nice ripple in the pond of insanity we live in these days. You’d completely make my day, actually my entire year.

  3. Coy Says:

    Book-marked, I love your blog! :)

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