Better Employment Numbers?

We had some fun this morning with November, 2011 numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  The statistics in the following are from a December 3, 2011 article from the Raleigh News & Observer, which in turn used numbers from a New York Times article by Catherine Rampell.

The DOL numbers that generated our grins: 120,000 new jobs, 315,000 people who had stopped looking for jobs, 64% of the population characterized as the “share of working Americans,” and an unemployment rate of 8.6% (slightly lower than October).  The new jobs were in retail, fast food, and a few other, possibly more permanent if not more desirable occupations.  We wondered if the net job gain should be the difference between new jobs and people no longer looking for jobs; that is, 120,000 minus 315,000, or a negative 195,000.  Translation: 195,000 more people don’t have a job.

Far from being experts on DOL or any other numbers, we can only wonder how these wonderfully round (not 120,457, but an even 120,000) numbers are assembled for public consumption.  In a short time we came up with what we thought might be a better method of producing such numbers: regular invitations to call a DOL Hot Line which would be answered by the voicemail lady as follows:

“Press 1 if you have a job and show up for it on a regular basis.  Press 2 if you are still looking for a job.  Press 3 if you are still looking for a job and refuse to give up.  Press 4 if you are not looking for a job because it’s too demeaning and time-consuming.”

This system would have its benefits.  DOL would hear from real people.  The same options could be provided on a website, just like the Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) system.

Wait a minute – that’s it!  The Labor Department could use the system when DWTS is between shows.  Right now the DWTS phone lines and website are just sitting there with noting to collect. We’re fairly certain ABC would loan DOL the same people DWTS uses to count up and report the results, seeing as how the results are made up anyway.  And how about having Tom and Brooke announce the results?  Much more attractive than stodgy old bureaucratic reports.

Finally, and this is only for fans of Dancing With The Stars: America, we’re still in jeopardy.  Not necessarily in the bottom two or three, but in jeopardy.