Home  »  Economy  »  Congressman Duncan Hunter Pushes Bill To Change How Government Measures Unemployment


Apr 9, 2012 Comments Off Pat Dollard

Excerpted from The Hill: A Republican lawmaker is intensifying his push for legislation that would change how the government measures the unemployment rate.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) intends to press GOP leaders to move his bill to include the number of individuals who gave up looking for work in the percentage of jobless claims.

Should the government measure unemployment with Hunter’s figure, the unemployment rate would be higher than the current rate of approximately 8 percent– a potentially devastating assessment for the White House, especially in an election year.
The San Diego-based lawmaker contends that he did not introduce his bill to make the president look bad, since the number would reflect poorly on all individuals in charge of government.

On a recent interview with Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum, Hunter said, “it makes me look bad too when unemployment is sliding … it makes the Republican Congress, the president and the Democratic Senate – anybody who is an elected representative and in charge look bad. I don’t think it goes one way.”

His one-page legislation, the “REAL Unemployment Calculation Act” would require “the federal government [to] cite, as its official unemployment calculation, the figure that takes into account those who are no longer looking for work,” not only those individuals actively seeking jobs.

For example, the most recent unemployment rate released on Friday with 8.2 percent unemployment, would be officially considered 9.6 percent, the so-called U-5 rate that was also released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.)

The measure would not require any additional numbers to be calculated, it would simply use a statistic that the BLS already calculates each month, alongside the so-called official unemployment rate and a handful of other stats.

The U-5 stat measures, “total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” while the U-3 stat or the “official unemployment rate,” measures, “total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force.”

Though the government modernized how unemployment was surveyed in 1994 – adding the several different calculations, including the U-5 rate to the mix – the official unemployment calculation has remained largely the same, according to a report on the “alternative unemployment measures” released by the BLS in 1994.

“Since the inception of the survey in 1940, only relatively minor changes have been made to the official definition of unemployment, despite numerous outside reviews and ongoing assessments by academicians, business and labor organizations and various interest groups. The official measure has withstood the test of time largely because of its objectivity,” John Bregger, former Assistant Commissioner for Current Employment Analysis wrote.

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