Can we necessarily believe Bush's new jobs claim?

I pretty much agree with your overall assessment.

Measuring something like the unemployment rate is a **very ** difficult thing to do. I tend to look at gov’t numbers for all these sort of things as telling us what the trend is relative to the past. They may not be accurate in an absolute sense, but if the same basic methodology is used, then one can at least compare year to year or quarter to quarter data.

flickster: The reason this is a preposterous concept is that unemployment figures are comprised of people that are available for work and that are attempting to find work. Being incarcerated makes it difficult to do either.

Um, but that’s kind of my point. The argument is that the incarceration in large numbers of potential workers, most of whom (at least two-thirds, according to the estimates I’ve seen) were unemployed before they went to jail, artificially depresses the US unemployment rate. Especially when it’s compared to that of European countries that don’t send anywhere near as many of their unemployed citizens to jail for nonviolent offenses.

However, if one was going to include the incarcerated in unemployment rates, you would first have to deduct the number of inmates actually performing jobs while incarcerated.

No, the BLS statistics, as far as I can make out, are based on statistical sampling of households, and don’t include people in prisons or other institutions. Such people are officially designated as neither employed nor unemployed—i.e., not in the labor force—whether they’re doing jobs in prison or not, AFAICT.

So my point stands: i.e., the US unemployment rate is lower than that of many other industrialized countries partly because we reclassify many more of our unemployed as “not in the labor force” by sticking them in prison for minor offenses that the other countries generally don’t incarcerate for. I don’t see why you would consider this a “preposterous” concept.

(Btw, apologies to all for the hijack, but it looks as though the originally suggested debate—i.e., are the BLS statistics on March job growth trustworthy?—has been pretty conclusively answered in the affirmative.)

From that story you cited:

" Kerry has a different prescription for economic growth. He touted his plan to create 10 million jobs, in part by eliminating tax incentives he says encourages companies to send work overseas and using that revenue to lower overall corporate taxes by 5 percent to promote job creation."

Does eliminating existing tax incentives and lowering corporate taxes constitute protectionist policies?

They are not considered part of the labor force because they are not available for work (so your point does not stand). It could be argued that if the inmates were not performing some jobs that then it would have to be done by a non-inmate, which would then be counted. But you are making it sound like we incarcerate people just so they won’t be included workforce numbers. While we may incarcerate for your stated “minor offenses” that may or may not happen in your “country to be named later”, does that also take into consideration the countries where they may not incarcerate but take off a body part instead?

flickster: But you are making it sound like we incarcerate people just so they won’t be included [in the] workforce numbers.

:eek: Sorry sorry sorry, I certainly didn’t mean to give that impression. I may not be a big fan of our take-all-prisoners War on Drugs policy, but I don’t believe that its purpose is merely a statistical trick to make our unemployment rate look low!

All I meant was that Brutus’s comparison of US and European (no body-part-removing justice systems included in this comparison, btw) unemployment rates is somewhat distorted by the great difference in our incarceration rates. I.e., if we had European-style penalty policies for non-violent offenses, US incarceration rates would be lower and unemployment rates higher, bringing our numbers closer to the European average.

Now, I’m not necessarily advocating such a change, or if I were, this thread would not be the place to do it; nor am I suggesting that in that case some European countries (esp. Italy and Spain) wouldn’t still have higher unemployment rates than the US. I’m just saying that the difference would be significantly smaller than it now appears.

In summary: I just don’t want us kidding ourselves that our apparently greater success in reducing unemployment is entirely due to superior economic efficiency, if some of it is in fact due merely to a more draconian criminal justice system.

It’s unclear to me that this is necessarily true. You’d have to demonstrate that prisoners are bigger consumers than non-prisoners are. Or that they at least consume at the same rate. If non-prisoners consume at a higher rate, that will create demand for goods/services and therefore a higher demand for jobs.

Actually, the article you linked to says that there were 1.3 million people in prison in 2001. That is less than 1 percent of the U.S. adult population. Even if we assume a large proportion of them would have been counted as unemplyed if not in prison, then we are still talking about a few tenths of a percentage point in the unemployment rate. America’s high rate of incarceration does not significantly effect the unemployment rate.

Seems the number is growing pretty rapidly:

Doubled in 12 years (1990-2002), and went from 1.3M in 2001 to 2M in 2002.

I sent the following question to the BLS and got the reply below. I think this information clears up some questions. The link provided in the reply below is also interesting reading.

In your statistic collection, how do you account for someone who is working two or three separate part-time jobs? For example, let’s say that someone was officially unemployed but actively looking for work and takes a job working 15 hours per week as a bank teller and a second job working as a cab driver 20 hours per week. Would you consider this as TWO new jobs having been created? If not, how would you differentiate this one person working two part-time jobs from one person working one full-time job?

Analysis of this on link

No, never trust anything Bush says.

Well done, iamme99. :slight_smile:

-I don’t know from 'protectionist policies", but I do tend to wonder how Kerry plans to give ten million jobs to about eight million unemployed. Unless I’m mistaken, that equates to less than zero unemployment, which seems mathematically unlikely.

You are forgetting that the population of workers is increasing. We will probably need 12 million jobs by then to get to zero unemployment.

Found this on another message board. I Googled for a direct link but couldn’t locate anything.

Actually, it didn’t go from 1.3M to 2M in just one year! If you read those articles carefully, the 1.319M number at the end of 2001 (and 1.355M in mid-year 2002 in the other article) refer to inmates in state and federal prisons, and thus these two articles seem to be consistent in that regard. The 2M in the article you linked to refer to the total in all prisons/jails, which includes an additional 665,000 in local and municipal jails.

Using that number of 2 Million in prisons or jails and the BLS employment numbers, one can get the following numbers for what the unemployment rate would be if those folks were not in prison and had various unemployment rates as a group. Namely, the unemployment rate would be 7.1%, 6.4%, and 6.0% under the assumption that that group had 100%, 50%, and 25% unemployment, respectively. (As opposed to the actual rate of 5.7%.)

So, my guess is that, under reasonable assumptions (say, 25% or so percent unemployment for that group, although we could argue about that), the large number of incarcerated people in the U.S. is having a measurable, but likely fairly small (on the order of a few tenths of a percent) influence on the unemployment rate.

If you are bound and determined to include inmates that are unavailable for work, then you should also include all of the military personnel to the other side of the equasion. It will increase the total number in the workforce plus reduce the unemployment rate bacause they are all working.

Military positions are counted as jobs and military personnel as jobholders, and have been since the Reagan years.

Not according to the BLS

However, just as a simple mathematical fact, this will not have as big a difference on the unemployment rate as adding 2 million people who have a significantly higher unemployment rate does. For example, if you add 2 million people with a 0% unemployment rate then you only reduce the unemployment rate from 5.7% to 5.62%. (And, of course, one would have to compare the percentage of people in the military in our country compared to the other countries we are comparing to. Is ours unusually high in percentage terms?)