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How Bad is the Unemployment Rate?
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In line with keeping things in perspective, let's look at the unemployment rate over the past 35 years or so.

Here's a graph:

Unemployment rates right now are around 5.6% or so, lower than the average rate over this period, and well below rates for significant time spans during this period.

I hear reporters and commentators speaking as if we're in some sort of second Depression, as if there are hordes of unemployed people out there, and that a rate between 5-6% is horrible. Is it possible that the current unemployment rate is reasonable? That's it's about average for what we'd expect for our workforce and population? Is a perennial unemployment rate of 3% the exception rather than the norm, and is it unrealistic as a long-term statistic?

One of the things I find strange about the current criticism of the economy is that while tons of new jobs are not being created, production and profitability have both risen. Isn't that a good thing? If a company can produce good better and more cheaply with fewer employees, why is that necessarily horrible? Isn't it the case that there are jobs in companies that are wasteful (I'm sure if you work in an office, there are at least a couple of people who you wonder what the hell they do there)?

I heard an interview on NPR the other day with a middle manager who'd been laid off and hadn't been able to find work for a year. He was complaining that he was having to learn other skills and that he'd probably have to take a job at a lower salary. I ask, this such a bad thing?

It just seems to me that economic statistics, like every other issue, are so infused with political meaning that people have lost perspective. It seems to me, that on average, economically we're doing pretty damn well as a country right now.

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