Don’t you just love numbers?

Whenever anyone starts throwing numbers around, my head first starts swimming in the sea of confusion – then just as quickly I kick into full gear and start wondering just what the truth of the matter is…. Here’s an example taken from a post for “intelligent investors” I received recently:

“The Commerce Department, which gauges the ebb and flow of the US economy, released its first estimate of 4Q GDP last Wednesday. The “advance” GDP report showed that the economy surged ahead by 3.5% … “…The economy is being driven by the strong jobs market, despite the slight uptick in the unemployment rate for January to 4.6% from 4.5% the previous month…. “

What caught my eye? The economy is great — it “surged ahead by 3.5%” and it’s driven by a “strong jobs market” that actually saw unemployment increase by a “slight uptick” of .1%. I checked https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm out of curiosity to see what this “slight uptick was and found:

“… The number of unemployed persons (7.0 million) and the unemployment rate (4.6 percent) were about unchanged in January.”

Hmmm. 7 million unemployed??? And our economy is “surging ahead”? I wondered who actually is included among these unemployed…what about older people who can’t find work, self-employed… independent contractors and sole proprietors who are out of work… People who are leaving their professions and taking “anything..no job is to small” to pay the bills? And I wondered how our military fits into this equation – are they considered employed….or just not counted in the roles? My questions were partially answered when I read this same bls.gov report further:

“… About 1.6 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in January–essentially unchanged from a year ago. These individuals 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 442,000 discouraged workers in January, about the same as a year earlier.  Discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them.  The other 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.”

This report deals with the civilian labor force…our military isn’t counted… Maybe that’s a good thing. If they came home today would they be among the employed – or the unemployed?   Meanwhile, I see prices skyrocketing again this week:

  • electricity up approximately 24% in January
  • bread anywhere from $1.99-$5 for a one lb loaf (heck a box of saltines was $2.50 in the store today)
  • chicken $5 a pound (but that’s ok, the store rep told me “but you get 2 for one at that price”)
  • gas now above $2.55 (again)

Does statistical analysis reflect the human condition?  I’m not pointing fingers or doing an expose here…just raising questions…and pointing to information that I need if I hope to understand the reality of our economic situation.  I think I’d better go back my high school statistics books and review…. Seems I must have missed something the day I was sick.

Author: 7577JMM

Retired - Published Author, Editor, Webmistress, Artist, Musician