October 2012 Archives

You know the saying: lies, damn lies, and statistics. Now add: political statistics.

Friday's jobless rate is either good news, terrible news, or made up news (shameful, Jack Welch).

I decided to do a bit of fact checking to see what I could come up with.

To put things in a bit of historical context, economists backdate the recession to 2007, but the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the too-big-to-fail crisis began almost exactly four years ago.

What do Bureau of Labor Statistics data tell us about ten countries? (Aus is Australia.)

  USA       CAN   AUS   JAP    FRA   GER   ITAL     HOL   SWE  UK            
2007 4.6 5.2 4.4 3.6 8.1 8.7 6.2 3.6 6.1 5.4
2008 5.8 5.3 4.3 3.7 7.5 7.6 6.8 3.1 6.1 5.7
2009 9.3 7.3 5.6 4.8 9.2 7.8 7.9 3.8 8.3 7.7
2010 9.6 7.1 5.2 4.8 9.5 7.1 8.5 4.6 8.3 7.9
2011 8.9 6.5 5.1 4.2 9.4 6.0 8.5 4.5 7.5 8.1
2012 Q2     8.2 6.4 5.1 4.0 9.8 5.7 10.7 5.2 7.4 8.1

Unemployment Rates, adjusted to U.S. Concepts

What jumps out to me: 
  • Since 2007, every country but Germany has a worse unemployment rate. This is a global--not a national--problem. The group of European countries, whether we consider the EU-27 or only those that have adopted the Euro as their currency, have seen unemployment increases each year since 2008. Those groups are not explicitly represented in the BLS data.
  • Since 2009, just after Lehman Brothers hit the fan, through the second quarter of this year, four of these ten countries the BLS cites for comparison have seen their unemployment rise.  The United States is not one of them.
  • From 2011 to the second quarter of this year, only one country has seen its unemployment rate drop by 0.5% or more. That country is the United States.
 Unemployment, seasonally adjusted, March 2011-August 2012.

The overarching lessons, which we should all remember but don't (or won't):
  • We--all countries--are in this mess together. Too big to fail might describe banks. Too interconnected to stand alone describes national economies.
  • No leader has the ability to magically restore the economy of his nation.
  • All things considered, the United States is faring fairly well.
Oh yeah: and for the first time in the Obama's presidency, unemployment is under 8.0%

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