If you managed to hear anything from the news lately besides the confirmation battle concerning Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, you might have heard about the most recent national unemployment figures that have been published.
I can easily remember when a figure of 95% employment (5% unemployment) was considered “full employment”, at least by whatever administration was in power and eager to accumulate the kudos that accompanies a “fully employed” country.
I think the 5% number represented the belief that there will always be some persons who are healthy enough to work, possessed of the wherewithal to be employed, and living in an area where employment is available, but for whatever reasons do not wish to be employed. Somehow, that portion of us was arbitrarily set at 5%. And then that 5% level was quietly abandoned as more and more persons embraced employment: 4.75%, 4.5%, 4%, lower and lower.
I have heard that the present unemployment figure is well below 4%, possibly 3.7%. And so we have to agree that full employment has become 96.3% if my math is correct.
What does this number (“The lowest since the early 1960’s.”) mean? More energized workers? More jobs available? Lower employment requirements? “Easier” working conditions? Fewer support programs for the unemployed? Higher wages?
Can it also mean less full-time work? Lower wages? Jobs divided among more workers? More self-employed, more entrepreneurs, more independent contractors? Less powerful unions? More powerful unions?
And how are these unemployment figures calculated anyway? And by whom? Best used how?
Of much greater value I would think are statistics that refer to what I do for a living, and where I do it, right? Are there state numbers? Regional numbers? Local numbers? And, unless I am going to move, aren’t local employment figures the only ones of real importance?
Thinking of all that doesn’t reverse the good news of 3.7% unemployment as it relates to our economy in general. It must translate into an optimistic job search for anyone seriously seeking work, doesn’t it? Stuff must be getting made, stuff must be getting done. And, at least in a general way, doesn’t this mean that if I want to work, I can find someplace to work, someone to hire me, something to do that will exchange my energy for value?
I guess the next question is: How much value can I get for the energy I expend, right?