A simple way to explain the unemployment stats

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Been looking for a simple way to explain the unemployment stats, how the “good news” of the past few weeks are really misleading, and providing those that believe them to be good news much like the fool’s gold that panhandlers find when digging for gold.

This synopsis is with much thanks to Frank Link, VP Client Services at First Sun Consulting, LLC – Outplacement Services. If you are not familiar with Abbot & Costello, and you love classic comedy, then you need to watch some of their clips on YouTube…

COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America .

ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 8.3%.

C: That many people are out of work?

A: No, that’s 16%.

C: You just said 8.3%.

A: 8.3% Unemployed.

C: Right 8.3% out of work.

A: No, that’s 16%.

C: Okay, so it’s 16% unemployed.

A: No, that’s 8.3%…

C: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 8.3% or 16%?

A: 8.3% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.

C: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

A: No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.


A: No, you miss my point.

C: What point?

A: Someone who doesn’t look for work, can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

C: To who?

A: To Obama’s re-election campaign.

C: But they are ALL out of work.

A: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work… Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

C: So if you’re off the unemployment rolls, that would count as less unemployment?

A: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

C: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

A: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how you get to 8.3%. Otherwise, it would be 16%. You don’t want to read about 16% unemployment do ya?

C: That would be frightening.

A: Absolutely.

C: Wait, I got a question for you. That means they’re two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

A: Two ways is correct.

C: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

A: Correct.

C: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

A: Bingo.

C: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.

A: Now you’re thinking like an economist.

C: I don’t even know what the heck I just said!

And now you know why the unemployment figures are improving!

Here’s Abbot and Costello’s best gig, enjoy…

And here’s another video for your next coffee break :-)


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Garrett O'Brien

Garrett is the Chairman of the Executive and Advisory Boards for
The HRIS World Research Network

With 20+ years in roles as a client executive sponsor, project manager as well as functional / technical lead, Garrett is sought for his expertise globally.

He has been involved in large-scale and complex implementations since 1991 and has recently moved his operations to be with his wife in Brazil.

Garrett has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest talents in the industry, and constantly shares his experiences and knowledge through content and webinars.

He has managed somehow to be fluent in Portuguese, German, French and English along the way.

When not working, you will have to be adventurous to stay up with him as Garrett loves motorcycling, gunnery, boating, sailing, flying, and sports fishing.

Garrett’s current roles…

  • Publisher, editor, writer, and owner of 6 leading HRIS system and career blogs which are read by 50,000+ monthly visitors monthly in 90+ countries, 40%+ the audience being decision-makers in their organization (and about half of that being C-levels!).
  • Serves on the HR.com Advisory Board for the CoreHR, HRIS and Payroll Community
  • Is the CEO for CGServices USA, focusing on multi-provider, multi-line implementations for HRIS systems
  • Is a Council and Education Member of Gerson Lehrman Group Council, helping institutions of the world leaders meet, engage and manage experts across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.

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