The chairman of the venerable Gallup research and polling firm says the official U.S. unemployment rate is really an underestimation and a “big lie" perpetuated by the White House, Wall Street and the media.
What CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton revealed in his blog Tuesday about how the Labor Department arrives at the monthly unemployment rate is no secret -- including that Americans who have quit looking for work after four weeks are not included in the survey.
The department's current rate of 5.6 percent unemployment is the lowest since June 2008, with President Obama using his State of the Union address and campaign-style stops across the country to tout an economic recovery.
“Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” Obama said in the opening lines of his January 20 address before Congress.“Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.”
Clifton says the “cheerleading” for the 5.6 number is “deafening.”
“The media loves a comeback story,” he writes. “The White House wants to score political points, and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.”
Since the start of the Great Recession, which economists largely agree began in late 2007, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 and finally got under 6 percent in September 2014.
Clifton says Americans out of work for at least four weeks are “as unemployed as one can possibly be” and argues that as many as 30 million of them are now either out of work or severely underemployed.
He points out that an out-of-work engineer, for example, performing a minimum of one hour of work a week, even mowing a lawn for $20, also is not officially counted as unemployed.
In addition, those working part time but wanting full-time work -- the so-called “severely underemployed” -- also are not counted.
“There's no other way to say this,” Clifton says. “The official unemployment rate … amounts to a big lie.”
His arguments are similar to those made by Washington Republicans after the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the rate each month during the height of the recession. However, Gallup is an 80-year-old, nonpartisan firm.
The bureau did not return a request for comment.
Clifton suggests the biggest misconception about the official rate is that it doesn’t denote “good” full-time jobs.
“When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth -- the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real -- then we will quit wondering why Americans aren't ‘feeling’ something that doesn't remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class,” he said.