Questions Surround New Jobless Rate Report

By Steve Rensberry

   (RPC) - 7/9/2010 - A drop in Michigan's unemployment rate to 13.6 percent this past June, as noted in the United States Department of Labor's latest report, was good news for the state in at least one respect.
   It knocked it off the list as the state with the highest seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in the nation. But while Michigan's rate remains significantly above the national average of 9.7 percent, Nevada now claims the highest at 14 percent. Illinois was at 10.8 percent for the month, better than what it has been and lower than Michigan's, but still a fair amount higher than the national average. Michigan has been hit hard by declines in the auto industry. Illinois has, well, been hit by a burgeoning deficit and overall budgetary strife.
The Labor Bureau's report is available here: Labor Bureau report
   You can expect a follow-up from this writer on precisely "why" Illinois' unemployment rate is so high. Can we blame it all on the state's budgetary woes? Is it all due to politics and corruption? Everyone's got an answer but proof has been in short supply.
   Here are two paragraph's from the Labor Bureau's report which provide some perspective on the issue. In addition to persons who are defined - strictly speaking - as "unemployed," there as many or more who are "marginally attached," "totally discouraged," or simply "overworked, stressed out and underpaid" to the point of being in a state of learned helplessness. How many have given up? How many are "double dipping, " working under the table but claiming they're not?
   According to the Bureau:
    "In June, about 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, an increase of 415,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
    "Among the marginally attached, there were 1.2 million discouraged workers in June, up by 414,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities."
   There is one key difference between Michigan and Nevada which makes any talk of percentages and rates fundamentally risky. Michigan has a population of approximately 10 million and Nevada's is about 2 million. Even though Nevada now has a higher rate, there are still many more people unemployed in Michigan (more than 650,000) than in Nevada (less than 200,000).
   (Photo: Steve Rensberry stands outside the Lansing Police Headquarters building in Lansing, Michigan, recently, and a stone's throw from the Michigan State Capital building. Around the corner was a line of picketers protesting state cuts in education funding.)