Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our Dismal Job Statistics - Part I

Despite the miniscule improvements the President keeps pointing to, the job picture in the United States is not good.  

While the current 8.2% unemployment rate which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited in their June 1, 2012 news release, is an improvement compared to a couple of years ago, it is still high compared to the rate in recent decades.

However, the picture gets gloomier when the other statistics in the BLS’s June 1, 2012 news release.

Before looking at these figures it helps to understand what the names of the various BLS employment categories mean.  You can view the entire glossary of BLS terms by going to the Glossary Page of their website.

Let’s start with the term unemployment.  While the term obviously refers to people who are out of work, the BLS definition is more restrictive.  Each month the BLS conducts a telephone survey of a randomly selected group of households in which it asks about the employment status of the members of the household.

To be considered unemployed a person has to be age 16 or older, to have not been employed in any paying capacity during the reference week and had to have been actively looking for work during the previous four week period.

The unemployment rate refers to the percent of the labor force that is unemployed (with unemployed referring to the definition of unemployment above).

Labor Force basically refers to all those who are engaged in paid employed or officially unemployed.  However, there are some exceptions.  The major exceptions are those who are in prison or other institutional settings and active members of the military - people in these groups are not considered to be a part of the labor force for BLS statistical purposes.

With these definitions in mind we can dig a little deeper into the statistics where we find a much darker picture.

The first thing to consider here is the fact that the 8.2% unemployment rate is based on the total number of those defined as unemployed as a percent of the Labor Force.  

However, this 8.2% is not evenly distributed.  In some states and regions the rate is higher while in others it is lower.

Even greater is the unemployment based on demographics.  For adult males overall, unemployment is 7.8% and for adult females it is 7.4%.  However, for teenagers it is 24.6%, for Hispanics it is 11% and Blacks 13.6% to name a few.  Lumping these and other groups together gives us the current national average rate of 8.2%.

While the percent of the labor force is a high single digit number, the number of living, breathing human beings that makes up that percent is a low EIGHT digit number - 12.7 Million people to be exact!

In my next post I will discuss three more classes of people who are out of work and need work but are not classified as unemployed and therefore not included in the 8.2% figure everyone talks about when discussing the current unemployment situation.

 Links for further reading:

Job Growth Still Lags Growth in Other Sectors of Economy

A Jobless Recovery

Saturday, June 09, 2012

National Brewers Day - Celebrating Russia's Brewing Industry

The second Saturday in June is National Brewers Day in Russia.  This is the date chosen by the Russian brewing trade group known as the Union of Russian Producers of Beer and Soft Drinks.

Today, a little over two decades after the fall of communism in Russia in 1991, the twelve year old brewer’s trade group and the brewing industry itself offer a glimpse of the massive economic change, and the prosperity that has accompanied that change, that has occurred in Russia.

While workers groups were common in the old Soviet Union, trade groups are a product of the post-Soviet era.  

Under communism, production and other economic decisions were made by  bureaucrats.  Consumers had no say in the process and were left to purchase and consume whatever was available.  Planners, managers and workers got paid regardless of whether consumers purchased the products they produced or not.  

With no market prices to guide them and no profit to motivate them, workers and managers simply sought to produce the quantity planners decided upon.  

So long as a bottle factory produced the required number of bottles and a brewery produced the target quantity of beer things were fine.  This despite the fact that the bottle factory was often located in one part of the nation and the brewery in another and no means to get the bottles to the brewery or no means to get the bottled beer to stores.  

Quality was poor while shortages and misallocations were common. However, that was life under communism.

With the switch from communism to a market economy things changed.  Now, consumers no longer have to settle for low quality goods or buy vodka instead of beer when vodka is all that is available.

Today, Russian drinkers can not only have their choice of beverage types but also have the opportunity to choose between competing brands of the same beverage.  Gone are long lines outside of stores, half empty shelves inside and having to settle for whatever is available.  

Not only are there a variety of beverages to choose from on store shelves, there are also a variety of competing brands for each type of beverage.  

A 2011 census of breweries estimated that there were between 600 and 1,000 companies operating breweries in Russia.  Other sources estimate that, of these, about 40 large companies produce the majority of beer with smaller local operations and restaurants producing for their own use, making up the remainder.

So, let us lift our glasses and toast Russian brewers and their accomplishments in the new Russia.