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alstry (< 20)

What is the real unemployment rate???? 4%, 9% or 16%?????



April 26, 2009 – Comments (20)

In order to determine we have to understand how the fugures are defined. 

NOTE: I am applying the Not Seasonally Adjusted numbers from the below linked graph.

The statistics are found here as released by the Department of Labor:

The first line is U1 reported at 4.1% and defined as:

Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force.........

The third line and most popularly quoted is U3 reported at 9% and defined as:

Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate)....


And there is the figure adopted by Alstry and those that practice Alstrynomics on the sixth line reported as U6 at 16.2% and defined as:

Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers...

Immediately below on the chart the following NOTE is provided:

Marginally attached workers are persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past.  Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not looking currently for a job.  Persons employed part time for economic reasons are thosewho want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

In other words, U6 includes those unemployed so long that they no longer qualify for unemployment benefits but want a job and those forced to work part time but want to work full time.

For Alstry, you are either employed or unemployed.  Just because you have been unemployed for over 26 weeks doesn't make you something are still unemployed and should be counted as unemployed.  Further, if you want to work full time but can only get part time work....for most Americans....the income received from part time employment is not sufficient to maintain a basic standard of living and thus Alstrynomics classifies those people as functionally unemployed.

Prior to the Clinton Administration....a definition closer to  U6  was the commonly reported unemployment figure.......

I konw, many of you wish the unemployment rates were only 4 or 9%..........but in reality, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the industrialized world exceeding 16%. 


Is understanding how unemployment is calculated and reported important?  I will that answer up to you guys who are people congregating in an investment website.....and potentially in the crosshairs of the next person to join the above statistics.

20 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 26, 2009 at 9:21 AM, alstry (< 20) wrote:


April 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy probably plunged again in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in inventories that may set the stage for a return to growth later this year.

Gross domestic product shrank at a 4.7 percent annual pace after contracting at a 6.3 percent rate in the last three months of 2008, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of a Commerce Department report April 29.

4.7%?????????????????????????????  Who knows how they come up with that ridiculous number???

New home Sales are DOWN 75% from peak.

Homes Prices Crashing........

Auto Sales are DOWN about 50%.

Revenues reported by corporation after corporation DOWN double digits....earnings even worse.

Tax receipts by government DOWN double digits.

Almost 5% of the civilian labor force became unemployed in the past 15 weeks.

And GDP DOWN only 4.7%?????  I GUESS THAT IS WHY THEY CALL US FOOLS...........................

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#2) On April 26, 2009 at 11:41 AM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

How about those that are considered a part of the workforce, but no longer seek a job because they no longer need one?  As in those who have gone from being two income households to being happy living as a single income household.

Not that I enjoy following you around on TMF or anything, but as I stated in other threads I usually enjoy reading your BLOGs and learn something from that reading.  But like the last BLOG you made (yesterday) about unemployment, I ask what difference does the percentage make.  The bottom line is that some 13.2 million people are unemployed.  Given the issues with Chrysler and GM that are expected to come to a head in the next month and a half, and the impending release of results on the bank stress tests (regardless of whether or not you feel they are based on correct information), I would think you would be posting something dramatic about the soon to be millions more who will be unemployed should Chrysler and GM file and the bank data come back mixed to negative.  Any one of those items will cause more panic than screaming about the unemployment percentages and/or GDP info.

I'm more worried about the impact to the already weakened economy of failure of these two automakers and the potential chase to the bottom in financials that may ensue after the bank stress test results come out.  There is some really scary potential.  The government reporting inflated numbers about something?  That happens all of the time, and has happened throughout history.  13.2 million people unemployed?  I believe that is making history.  Millions more unemployed as a result of major industry and sector failures.  That is making history.  Finding a way to survive that downturn and recover.  That will also be making history.

Perhaps, instead of repetitive BLOGs about a growing issue, you could post and update in a single BLOG the running numbers for unemployment and solicit thoughts on how to turn it around.

Personally, this BLOG just turned me off to your repetitive message and has caused me to lump you in with the rest of the doomsayers in the mainstream media.  I'll grant you that if you scream that the sky is falling often enough, eventually the sky will fall, and you will be correct.  But I prefer something more constructive.  I prefer to recognize that the sky may fall and that I should look for ways to either prevent it from falling or finding a way to survive its fall.  When you offer up something constructive in that line of thinking, I may actually start buying in to what you are selling....

Otherwise...Fool on...and long live Alstrynomics 

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#3) On April 26, 2009 at 11:48 AM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

Here is a little secret...if the government applied a 16.2% unemployment sensitivity to the "stess test," practically every bank in America would be forced to shut down tomorrow morning .

Does that help bridge the gap between what you happen to think is important and what I am blogging about?

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#4) On April 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

GM's North American workforce is 298,000 as reported by the company, but I actually think it's 286,000 as I think they've already laid off 12,000.  Can't find up to date numbers on that.

Chrysler's total employment in North America is just over 50,000.

Now going back to the second link, we find out that the Big 3 had already shed 250,000 workers over the last nine years.  So what we're talking about here isn't millions of people unemployed if the Big 3 go under. 

Another point needs to be made here, and that has to do with the basics of economics.  Had the Big 3 been allowed to fail years and decades ago, those workers would have already found employment in more productive sectors of the economy.  There is a strong possibility that an automaker or two in the United States could have stepped in and filled the void left behind, increasing employment in the long run.

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. - Henry Hazlitt 

David in Qatar

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#5) On April 26, 2009 at 12:01 PM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

I don't argue that it is or isn't important.  I am simply stating that the percentage is not as critical as the fact that there are 13.2 million people out of work.  I am hopeful that the mathematicians in our government would use the numbers that properly reflect the situation vice some inflated or deflated percentage that can be easily manipulated.

It is not that I fail to see what you are pointing to or trying to get at.  But I am not one of those people who simply enjoys being told that something is broken.  Rather I would prefer that he who screams about something being broken also offer up a solution or two about how it might be fixed.  In the absence of that, soliciting such thoughts might prove more educational than simply repeating the same information regarding U3 vs U6.

But again, I am but one voice amongst opinion amongst many...and I may very well be wrong...

That said, I'll leave you to your crusade, and I hope that somewhere along the way you find and post something that may prove to be a solution for the growing issue.  Who knows your persistence may pay off and the government may change the way they report their information, and perhaps someone just like you may come up with or lead the group of people who come up with the key piece of the puzzle that turns things around.

As for the Bank stress tests, I am hoping that unemployment was treated more of a factor of how many people will deplete the banks of their capital by making withdrawals from their savings to survive vice some comparative percentage.  We already know that the impact of those being out of work is going to be huge on any credit vehicle be it mortgage (of any flavor) or credit cards or simply loans.  Telling me that banks are going to fail is not going to surprise me.  Telling me banks are going to fail and here is how we will survive or fix it...that will surprise me. So far, all of the tax payers money being thrown around does not seem to be doing the trick.

And unfortunately I am going to have to be a bit hypocritical in that I do not know what the solution is nor do I have any idea on what to offer up as one.  I simply know the machine is broken and what I am doing to ride this out... 

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#6) On April 26, 2009 at 12:06 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

Let's me elaborate a bit further.....a one percent change in unemployment can have an impact on investment worth hundreds of billions of dollars.  With the trillions being thrown around by the Fed these days, hundreds of billions may not seem significant to some....but to Alstry it is still a large number....especially considering that the annual sales of all of GM or WalMart is only a few hundred billion dollars. 

For example, if you are a credit analyst....a big deal is being made right now that credit card defaults are now exceeding unemployment rates.

It is being reported that credit card defaults are heading over 10% while unemployment is only at 8.5%.  If one applied a 16.2% unemployment figure to the credit card defaults.....then the 10% number wouldn't be a big deal and forecasts might come in much higher for future defaults.

If forecasts did come in much higher, practically every bank in America would be I have little doubt this is where we are guess is so does the government....

Now the only question is whether they will ever let you know this or whether there will be a outside event that makes investing and TMF irrelevent.

Now isn't that an important reason to know exactly what the unemployment rate is and exactly what effect such a rate will have in the most leveraged economy in world history????

I am not making fun of is simply a very important point that you fail to appreciate as of now.....but one way or another, whether you ever understand it or not....I have little doubt it will be an issue, directly or indirectly, that impacts your life as much or more that just about any other issue you have experienced.

How is that for perspective on how important the issue is......?


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#7) On April 26, 2009 at 12:07 PM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

David good point regarding numbers of potential losses from GM and Chrysler alone, but what about all of the support industry that ends up tanking due to their failure?  I am certain that failures of GM and Chrysler will impact much more than just those two companies.  Just like I am certain that the sun will come up tomorrow.  

But just because the sun rises each day, does not mean that I will have nice weather and/or a sunny day.  So just because those companies may fail, does not mean the end of the industry or the end of the economy.  It just means that we will have to find a solution...for instance, my umbrella for use when the sun comes up and it decides to rain.

But since, I am not an economics professional nor a business guru, I'll read and learn, and try to make smart decisions that will bring me and my family through this, and hope that everyone else does likewise. 

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#8) On April 26, 2009 at 12:10 PM, angusthermopylae (37.46) wrote:


I both agree and disagree with your point (yeah, that sounds real manly, doesn't it...)

"Real" unemployment is a point of contention because everyone believes the numbers are cooked...cooked, barbecued, roasted, left too long in the oven, and served with a bitter side of "trust me."

Government unemployment numbers discount a lot of factors, including what you pointed out...some people don't need or want to work, some people can't work, and others have non-paying work that's just as vital (think moms and such here).

My anxiety over the official unemployment numbers (and how they will play out) is that, even when put through the DC Spin Machine, they still reflect weakness in the economy.

If I had the Power of Greyskull, I would mandate that the unemployment is counted like this:

--Everyone of working age is included in the population...regardless of circumstances.

--Everyone who receives a full-time paycheck (ok, use 32 total hours for wage earners) is the percentage of employed.

--Everyone who receives a part-time paycheck is counted in a separate category. (Those who receive total wages above 32 hours X minimum wage would be considered full time)

From there, it's not "% unemployed," because you would always have a large number of people not receiving a pay stub.  It would be "% employed full time, and % employed part-time" and then it's just a matter of seeing if that number goes up or down.

Underlying data could be parsed out into industries to see who's winning, who is losing, and who's holding on.  For instance, instead of "seasonally adjusted", you could say, "Hey, it's winter--fruit pickers are out of work, as usual"  Or you could say, "Yes,it looks like the auto industry is indeed shrinking."

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#9) On April 26, 2009 at 12:15 PM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

Alstry, I do not feel belittled by your sharing of information or the way you present it.  Let me ask this:  Would you prefer that they take a measured approach to getting to the point where banks are deemed insolvent, or would you rather a panicked race into insolvency?  If it becomes widely accepted that banks are broke world wide and that money is now worthless as the paper it is printed on, what happens to the social order of things.  Things from that point of view could very quickly end up being a survivalist's wet dream from the stand point of all their preparations for armageddon paying off.

Perhaps the issue is not that the government is trying to cover things up for malicious intent, perhaps the government is trying to figure out this very unique issue and come up with a solution that does not involve total chaos and mass hysteria.

Don't get me wrong, I prefer truth and reality to fantasy, but every now and then you have to push the I believe button and move on otherwise you get stuck in a situation that you can do nothing about and simply waste away instead of being a functional member of society and living your life.

But just in case you are right and we are heading for a financial armageddon when all of the numbers finally do come out, and they are much, much worse than already reported, what would you offer up as a solution?  I have already read what you feel on preparing, and I don't disagree. 

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#10) On April 26, 2009 at 12:17 PM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

Angus,  nicely put.

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#11) On April 26, 2009 at 12:30 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

Actually Mike,

There is a solution and I and others have articulated on numerous is the opposite of propping up insolvent banks.......the only question now is why the Federal Reserve and Treasury taking us down a road of Zombie Banks creating a Zombie Nation when we are a levaraged economy....something very different to Japan in the lost decade of the ninties when it was a unlevered economy?

Quite frankly I am not sure......

Ask yourself why is our nation now permitting and encouraging torture, such as waterbaording, when we used to prosecute and imprison others for identical behavior?

Why does an administration that espouses change hire the identical people to run the government again?

Why does a President who admits that Wall Street behaved recklessly hire only Wall Street advisors?

Let me ask you a question, for the purpose of illustrative reasons only....let's say you were a physicist that lived in Hiroshima just before the bomb was going to be dropped, and for one reason or another you couldn't leave but appreciated the destructive effects of Atomic energy, a force that the world had never seen or felt stuck on that situation would you be????

How would you respond to someone at a cafe who said let's hope the plane turns around?

I am not saying armegeddon is going to happen.....and never have I inferred that....what I have said if we continue down the same policy direction with the same rising unemployment....almost every bank in America will be insolvent and 30-50% of the population will likely be unemployed....maybe more.

I also believe that our government officals are aware of this as they continue down the same the question is why?

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#12) On April 26, 2009 at 12:42 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

And in case you question whether Alstry and the Government are on the same page........

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy will continue to contract “for some time to come,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council.

I expect the economy will continue to decline,” with “sharp declines in employment for quite some time this year,” Summers said today on “Fox News Sunday.”

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#13) On April 26, 2009 at 12:52 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

Nov 2008

Officially, U.S. unemployment is 10 million, but if measured by pre-Clinton era standards unemployment is much higher. Statistician John Williams, who measures the unemployment rate by the pre-Clinton standards, concludes that the rate of unemployment is about 15 percent. President Clinton "reformed" the unemployment statistics by ceasing to count discouraged workers as unemployed.

Today...William's estimates unemployment closer to 20%.

Discouraged workers are simply those that have been unemployed so long that they are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.

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#14) On April 26, 2009 at 12:57 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:

Could this make our entire economic concerns evaporate instantly????

PREPARE.....Don't Fear!!!!!!

Seriously....who the heck knows???????

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#15) On April 26, 2009 at 2:05 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

Ah so now you are predicting OVER 50% unemployment and you had to throw in a pandemic scare in your thread to boot.  You might as well follow it up with global warming and the coming of THE earthquake as well.

Yeah I am just feeding the troll now, and promising myself to stop doing this henceforth. 


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#16) On April 26, 2009 at 2:25 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:


I simply can't help that Alstrynomics is bar far and away one of the most accurate schools of thought on the direction and projection of the economy. 

It is what it is and none of us really can do much about it....can we?

We are already at unemployment rates that few economist ever thought we would achieve.......not Alstry.....he set it out for you last year, provided his reasoning, and here we are at over 16% unemployment as reported by the Department of Labor.

In a few weeks there is little doubt we will be OVER 17% unemployment and less than 13% away from Alstry's amazing call for 30% unemployment. 

It is not that Alstry wishes for 30% is simply an extrapolation of the FACTS to reasonable projections.  If the facts change, so will Alstry's projections.

I know you wish you could be as accurate as Alstry......but it appears you have some intellectual limitations as seeing the truth and reality.....but don't fret.....Alstry will continue to be here to help you......good luck.

Prepare.....Don't Fear.

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#17) On April 26, 2009 at 2:42 PM, MikeBobulinski (< 20) wrote:

Alstry, got pulled away from this discussion for a bit, sorry.  In your post (comment #11), you raise a lot of good questions.  Why does the government let anything happen?  I'd love to say that there is some sound logic to any of it, but to be honest, I could not authoritatively state that there is.  I have been in or around the military all of my life.  First as the son of a Naval Officer, and then for my own part working as a Naval Officer since '92.  I have seen any number of things that do not make sense at my level, but had to realize that I am but one small part in a much larger series of moving parts.  I have had to do things without question and have faith that the outcome of my actions worked for the greater good.  I have not blindly followed my leadership into every situation, but have found myself in situations where the only available answer or only possible course of action was to do what I was told.

Since I am still working in the service of the US, and Mr. Obama is my Commander-in-Chief, I have to hope that he is a smart man making smart decisions and providing smart direction for us to follow.  I can see where there are plenty of areas that are cause for great concern.  But like you, I do not know why it is that the actions we see being taken are the ones that have been taken.  I can sit here just as easily as you are and try to armchair quarterback what he has been doing and question or second guess everything.  I could come up with some plan I am sure and tout it as better than what has been offered and executed on, but until I am in the same exact shoes that Mr. Obama is in with the same exact stimulus that he is reacting to, I honestly can't say that he is completely wrong.

I will offer that he was voted into office under our current system.  So whether or not his decisions are correct and popular or not is laid squarely at the feet of the people.  Had he not won the election, would we be better off?  Can't say.  Is he making the right calls, based on the information he has available to him?  History will be the judge.  Why is he making the calls he is making, when clearly there are lots of people who question his judgement?  I'll leave that up to him and his staff to answer, because I don't know.

So, I agree with you...why?  Why is the government doing what they are doing in the manner that they are doing it?

As for the atomic bomb scenario that you painted, if there is nothing I can do about it, then why be stuck on it?  You have stated that I would have knowledge of the destructive power but no ability to evade it.  Sounds to me like a "You have ___ time left to live, what do you want to do with the time you have left?" kind of scenario.  How would I respond to the hopeful, I join them.  Why?  You've already told me that I can't I might as well cling to hope and party like it is the end of the world, because according to your scenario...for is the end of the world.

That said, I'll stop adding to this, and simply say the same thing you have...why? 

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#18) On April 26, 2009 at 7:09 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

Alstry of course you are hoping for 30% unemployment.  That is the sad part. You are absolutely dying to say "I told you so" despite the fact that millions up millions of people would have to suffer just so an anonymous person like you can type on a website "aha I was right." Don't bother denying this.


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#19) On April 26, 2009 at 9:17 PM, alstry (< 20) wrote:


In life you simply can't run from the math and the truth.  It is just the way it is.....

That is all Alstry focus on the truth and the math.

Maybe if you looked at the truth a little would see things a little clearer.

I am only here to help you see....if you desire to keep your eyes shut....that is OK.  In life you are free to make choices....Alstrynomics is all about freedom....let's us all hope we don't lose it.

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#20) On April 26, 2009 at 9:28 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


As a former military man I can empathize with your current allegiance. I think of it like this: "government" is really just an analogy to describe many individuals who act in a manner that is "governmental."  In other words, Obama/Bush/etc.. all act in a way that is expected of them, regardless of the actual outcome of the policies that they propose, support, or oppose by those with whom they share power.  They deserve neither all of the blame nor all of the credit.  Focusing on one actor in this play is counterproductive if your hope is a practical solution. The system itself has been corrupted to such a point that I don't think any leader could step in and enact sensible policies.

David in Qatar


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