IT Career JumpStart

Oct 7 2011   3:13PM GMT

September 2011 Employment & Counting the Unemployed

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

It’s the first Friday of the month, and as always, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics posts its “Employment Situation Summary” for the previous month — September 2011, in this case — at 8:30 AM Eastern US Time. The numbers did manage to go up a little bit (103,000) for September which beats the near-zero counts for August, though the official unemployment number didn’t budge from its 9.1 percent value.

And with the return of all those striking Sprint telecomm workers to work in September, IT employment edged up by 34,000. Lest this give you too much encouragement, however: parse this quote:

Employment in information was up by 34,000 over the month due to the return of about
45,000 telecommunications workers to payrolls after an August strike.

Even though 45,000 strikers returned to work, counts for September went up by 34,000. In my book, that reflects an actual job LOSS for IT workers of 9,000. Ouch! Total employment in the IT sector is around 2.8 million (based on the Figures in Table A-14 which cites that unemployed counts of 209,000 comprise 7.4 percent of the total working population in the Information sector, the total count is just over 2.82 million). Thus a decrease of 9,000 represents only 0.3% of that population so it is a minor fluctuation to be sure, but also one in the wrong direction (down, not up). My usual hunker down mantra is apparently still in full effect for those who are actually still working in IT, while those looking for IT jobs will have to look even harder.

In researching this month’s EmpSitSum (as I sometimes call it to myself when remember its “First Friday of the month” timing), I came across an interesting article on Entitled “Employment Situation Summary October 2011” it delves a bit into something that often troubles me as I review each month’s report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — namely, the way the unemployed are counted by this government agency.

Here’s the root of my concern, quoted from that article:

The report touches on an unsettling concern seldom reported. Not counted in the 14 millions unemployed are the 9.3 million Americans who are unable to find full time unemployment and have taken part time work. This group is referred to as involuntary part time workers and this group has continued to grow nationally.

In addition to the involuntary part time, there is a increasing number of marginally attached workers who are available to work and have looked for work within the past 12 months or have simply given up seeking employment. There are 2.5 million workers considered marginally attached workers with about a million who believe there are no job available for them and are not counted among the unemployed.

The way I read this is that our employment rate might be “officially” at 9.1 percent, but if you add 9.3 million (for those involuntary part-timers) and another 2.5 million (for the marginally attached) to the official 14.0 million, you get a total of 25.8 million. And then there’s another category of unemployed that’s not on this radar either: it’s the count of “discouraged workers” (employed persons who have basically given up on finding a job). In some cases it’s counted within the marginally attached numbers, and in some cases. not. For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume that this count is included.

Thus if 14 million equals 9.1 percent unemployment, 25.8 million unemployed and underemployed equals 16.77 percent of the workforce, or just a hair under 1 in every 6 people. This is really scary, and tells us that unless we make constructive changes as a collection of individuals, an agglomeration of local, state, and national governments, and a society, we’re in for a long and painful recovery. I certainly hope that Republicans and Democrats can join forces to help improve the jobs outlook in the USA, or we’ll be stuck in the mud for years to come!

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