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New York Times Headline: U.S. Unemployment Rate Reaches 17.5 Percent

November 7th, 2009

The U.S. Labor Department came out with the latest official jobless figures, showing that unemployment has now reached double digit territory: 10.2%. However, shortly after  this grim milestone was revealed, The New York Times had a front page headline that proclaimed the actual unemployment rate was 17.5%, meaning one in six American workers was either unemployed or forced to take a lower-paying part-time job due to the unavailability of a suitable fulltime position.

Since 1961, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has excluded discouraged workers from the official unemployment count, disseminated as U3. The more inclusive U6 unemployment figure, published in The New York Times, stands at 17.5%. However, there are other estimates that indicate true unemployment in the United States stands in excess of 20%.

More important than the competing unemployment figures in the change in  total labor income, equivalent to the gross number of hours worked multiplied by the mean average hourly wage. Over the past year, hours worked in the United States has declined by 7%, simultaneously with wages being frozen or reduced. In an economy dependent on the American consumer for more than 70% of GDP, these statistics do not augur well for a sustained economic recovery in the U.S., despite the official boasting of “green shoots” on the horizon.


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