Las Vegas Sun

July 6, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Unemployment figure misleading

I am one of those Americans who, after two years and hundreds of applications and working with our local unemployment office, finally gave up looking for a job.

I went to all the classes that the unemployment office sent me to, for interviews, job fairs, etc. The Internet job sites give tips; I’ve read them all, especially the ones that said companies are looking for experienced baby boomers. This is so not true.

The minute you go to an interview and they see your graying hair, it’s over. It doesn’t matter if you nail the interview or if you have 30 years of managerial experience, businesses are looking for people in their 20s or 30s who will be longtime employees. It’s age discrimination, of course, but you can’t prove it.

The current unemployment rate is at 7.9 percent, but in reality it is much higher. It doesn’t factor in people who have given up looking for jobs, especially baby boomers. But it also doesn’t factor in people who can only find part-time work, which is not enough to support yourself or a family. A lot of people have moved in with relatives just so they don’t have to sleep under a bridge. I would like to see the real number of people who are not working. That would be a true picture of what is really going on in America.

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  1. I can fully understand the fear and apprehension that Mr. Imes must feel. I have felt the same very same way recently. I became unemployed at the beginning of June of this year and for the first time in my life had to collect UI.

    However, I have to disagree with Mr. Imes when he talks about prospective employers turning away older, experienced people. Over the years I have learned that in skilled professions a person is paid for what they know as much as what they do, if not more.

    I am 59 and was very much afraid that I would not be able to find work in my field as a programmer. As it turns out, companies *do* value proven experience. I found work in less than three months and had my choice of multiple offers.

    That said, I must admit that I would like to know if the survey questions were changed in the last couple of months and look at the raw numbers to see just where that incredible jump in part time employment came from. I would also like to know if it was seasonally adjusted and see the year-over-year numbers. I don't think the numbers were tampered with, but I'd like to know if the definitions are still the same.

    Remember, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

  2. President Obama has a fix. Extend the unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. Plus, eliminate the welfare to work requirements so those collecting welfare won't complain that they can't get their benefits when they don't have a job.


  3. Great letter, and posts. The past several years have been difficult ones for most of us. Only by sticking together in the end do we have a chance to work thru these times.I can't disagree with the letter writer about discrimination. He has experienced this first hand in his personal field and in the encounters he has had.

  4. I can empathize with you Jim. From your pooint of view the unemployment rate looks like it's about 100%.

  5. "September is a month of dramatic changes in the composition of the labor force and employment. Seasonal summer employment typically ends. Students with full-time summer jobs go back to school and many take part-time jobs during the academic year. Teachers with summer jobs, shift back to their full time teaching positions. Part-time adjunct instructors at universities and colleges reassume part-time teaching positions. Mothers who take care of children during the summer may assume full or part-time positions when the school year begins. The important thing to note about labor market conditions each September is that the dynamics are more complex than most other months."

    "The recurring pattern of declining full-time and surging part-time employment each September suggests seasonal adjustment factors for these data haven't fully compensated for the evolving September labor market dynamics, Stone said. Especially noteworthy is that the surge in part-time employment in September is "far more dramatic" for those who report they are working part-time by choice, not compulsion, he said."

    Of the 873,000 jobs added in September of 2012, 582,000 of the newly employed are part-timers. That part-time job growth fits historically. In September of 2010, 579,000 Americans reported gaining part-time employment. In 2011, 483,000 reported gaining part-time employment.

    Add the reported job growth (114,000) to the upwards revision of July-August (86,000) and you're in the ballpark with the numbers reported.

    Could this be a statistical abberation? An outlier? Could be. Given that the BLS just adjusted 4/11-3/12 upward by 386,000, perhaps the survey has been undercounting job growth for over a year.

    "The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday it had undercounted job growth, meaning the economy added 386,000 more jobs than previously estimated between April 2011 and March 2012."

    Further, the strength in the job market is supported by other independent research:

    "TrimTabs reports that beginning in June, it began to observe an improvement in year-over-year growth in daily income tax withholdings. The upward trend has continued through September. TrimTabs highlights the improvements in real-time income tax withholding data that support the improvement in job growth. Specifically, wages and salaries rose 5.1% y-o-y in September, up from 3.8% y-o-y in August. Assuming that inflation is now running at about 1.7% y-o-y, September real wage and salary growth is 3.4% y-o-y, putting it squarely in the range of moderate economic growth for the first time since March 2011."

    If this month is an outlier, Obama's in for a hangover next month.

  6. boftx: Great to hear of your success. However, not every occupation remains as marketable as yours. Jim Imes sounds like an industrious kind of guy who would make an excellent employee. I more than suspect many middle-aged unemployed face issues others do not.

  7. RefNV: Bradley's post inspired me to read your post. How's about getting verified so you're more visible?

  8. The letter writer is pointing out a very important reality: the labor market has become stratified. If you are in the "employable" stratum, you can find a job. But if you are in the "unemployable stratum, Heaven help you.

    Current "unemployables" are: (1) out of a job for 6 months or more, and/or (2) over 50. Knowledge, skills, abilities, and education will not even be considered unless (A) you are currently employed and/or (B) under 50. (And it is a further strike against you if you are a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan.)

    The "real unemployment" measurement is published every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a part of its unemployment data. If people will take the time to actually read more than the summary (or, more likely, the news reports that summarize that summary), they will realize that we have two problems: (A) the Human Resource departments that do the hiring are, in fact, discriminating on the basis of age -- which violates existing law, and (B) the HR departments are lazy and are refusing to consider folks who have been out of work, creating a permanent class of American "Untouchables".

    We have a choice here: We can continue to spend about $1 TN per year endlessly helping, retraining, and maintaining a class of American Untouchables who will never get hired or we can pass a law against this sort of discrimination and actually enforce it until the HR departments hire based solely on merit.

    That way everyone can have a real chance at jobs to support themselves.

  9. It occurs to me that Las Vegas is not the best place to be commenting about the lack or jobs or the inability to find work. I don't disagree that someone 50+ with general management skills is going to find tough going anywhere but LV will probably be worse than most. That said it seems that many long term unemployed worked in sectors that are easily downsized, moved or shipped offshore and/or they have not maintained education in current practices and/or they have narrow skills. I retired last year and moved to very rural Washington. Our local weekly paper has had ads for apprentice and journey welders, high voltage linemen, nuclear plant security, combine operators and ag mechanics. The energy companies from North Dakota, Montana and Alberta routinely cruise through looking any manner of skilled trades and office personnel. Our local tribal health care centers are looking for everything from docs to nurses to lab techs to paperwork people.

    There are jobs out there for folks with knowledge and skill who are willing to relocate and take new direction in their lives.

  10. OK, Ref, you're verified. It's my aging eyes and my tendency to read the shorter posts first. Thanks for the "insight."

  11. leric 11:52: The over-50 seeking employment issue has been around for some time--something about age discrimination if you're over 40. But try to prove it. Legislation might not be the answer. Many former-employed, now over 50, have filed for SS disability especially if they were in construction, mechanics or other "physical" occupations. I know of a few who have enhanced injuries to obtain the $870 a month disability..... Not sure I would criticize anyone faced with destitution for going this route. Before we had so many illegals, middle-aged women were the standard fast-food flippers. Now what are they doing? Living without or on the streets? Some are probably living with adult children. Some are on Medicaid and being housed in nursing homes and "mental" facilities. Some of us are "retired" to our savings and assets and realizing that we probably will not be gainfully employed again, at least not full time in our professions. Perhaps something part time or seasonal like the over-65 set has sometimes done to enhance retirement income. And then there is the on-the-job discrimination where many many supervisors, with encouragement from management, favor parents of dependent children--preference for vacations / time off to "see the kids play", preference in promotions 'cause they need the income / have kids to put thru school.... ANYHOW, if we could explain to them that are getting the easy ride that once the kids are gone and they don't get preference, they may be SOL too....maybe things would start to change. But what it amounts to is that we have not had FULL EMPLOYMENT for decades. Not sure what that would look like--when performing adults can find appropriate employment in a reasonable time and keep that employment without being RIFed so the younger crowd can get promoted.
    Shortly after relocating to the Vegas area in the mid 80's, a woman I was counseling told me that they don't want us. They don't want female employees over 35 years of so. I must have appeared older than I then was but now I know to what she referred. I am / was an extremely productive employee so it took into my mid-50's before I found out what she meant. Now I know. For a time I still got job offers in lower-level work--I could and can "type" over 100 wpm with accuracy, do good phone work, multi-task, build extremely complex spreadsheets and all sorts of other support functions. Now I don't get many offers but that may have something to do with no longer looking much--I can get by financially and others need those jobs more than I do. If things level out fairly soon, I might look again but I'm pretty much over the NEED to work. I contribute in other ways--but you'll have to wait for a more relevant article in the LVSun for that info.

  12. "Wow hold your horses partners! seems they didn't count California in the recent figures."

    You're confusing "jobless claims" aka people who have filed for unemployment in the past week with the unemployment rate, which is reported monthly. Two different figures entirely, and the numbers of one don't necessarily affect the other.


  13. As for RefNV's misleading labor force participation claims:

    "This exercise, though, assumes that the entire drop in the labor force participation rate from January 2009 to the present is a result of discouraged people giving up on looking for work. It ignores the fact that the baby boomers are hitting retirement age, meaning that demographics would probably bring down the labor force participation rate even if the economy were booming. Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, estimates that half of the decline in the labor force participation rate "can be traced to an aging population." The calculation above also ignores the fact that a higher share of young people are going to college, and are staying out of the work force temporarily while they improve their skills."

    Politifact concurs:

    "We also checked a jobs claim from conservative group the American Future Fund, that the United States now has the "lowest workforce since (President Jimmy) Carter." The ad includes a significant inconsistency about dates, and it uses the word "workforce" incorrectly. By a different measure -- the civilian labor force participation rate -- its claim is not far off. However, not all the blame for the low participation rates today has to do with the recession and slow recovery under Obama. Another significant cause is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. We rated the claim Mostly False."

    Paul Ryan himself noted tonight that 10,000 baby boomers are retiring... every day.

  14. My mother who is in her 60's and is employed has similar fears. She can't retire for a few more years with social security, and if she were to be let go she fears she wouldnt be hired somewhere fully again because of her age. It's a tough market, and competition for the few jobs out there is fierce making it even more dicey.

    All I can suggest is that people look outside of what they typically do. Think of lines of employment you wouldnt have before. The economy is forcing many of us to figure things out. You may be challenged to find a a job that isn't what you did 10 or 20 plus years ago, instead you have to see your relatable skills and know that you're smart and can do something else. The pay may not be the same, and that hurts a lot of people. But staying unemployed hurts even more.

    Good luck Jim!

  15. Jim,

    I am sorry you have had such a problem getting a job, in spite of all your responsible efforts.

    I would like to encourage you to not give up hope.

    My husband (61) recently got a full time job as a carpenter, his chosen work.

    I believe that after the election, we might very well see more openings with an ongoing, but slow recovery, no matter who is elected.

    Business has no choice. It cannot survive without hiring employees or sales. Employees are also consumers.

    The fact that I have already begun to observe more hiring confirms that fact.

    You didn't say what type work you do, but if you can't find something in a decent time, you might start considering a worker/owner coop as an alternative.

    There are lots of things to consider in such an endeavor, but it may be more secure and offer more freedom than traditional employment. Just depends on your circumstances.

    It will take some research and possibly networking with others with a like interest.

    Just don't give up hope.

  16. I found the letter to be lacking in specifics. What type of work is Mr. Imes looking for? What type of work has he been doing? What types of jobs is he actually qualified for? What is his educational background? These aren't personal questions; they are questions any HR interviewer will be asking. I left the workforce by choice, at age 62. Why? Because my job was no longer necessary for me to live a happy and fulfilling life. That's me, and I'm not suggesting anyone follow my lead. However there comes a time, if you're able, to move on.

  17. Unemployed and not looking for work?

    If someone is unemployed and still looking for work on their own, without using government employment services, there is no way they can know who is looking and who isn't.

    Still, if they use the same measures consistently, they can provide an estimate comparison.

    It should be used as a trending reference, not a factual figure. To get all hung up on the figures is a waste of time, unless one has a specific use for them, and understands them.

    They will adjusted, and there is another set due before the election for those who have a political interest in the figures.