Since we now live in a world of “alternative facts,” we might as well get used to checking them.
This (via Media Matters) is an exchange from January 23 on Fox News’ “The Five”:
ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): Juan can I ask you something? Did President Obama bring down the unemployment rate?
JUAN WILLIAMS (CO-HOST): Yeah.
BOLLING: OK, here is an alternative fact, OK? The reality is if you are add in the people who have given up looking for work, that unemployment rate actually hasn't budged a bit in eight years.
Eric Bolling is here trotting out the tired right-wing canard that the official unemployment rate masks the dire status of the workforce, because it excludes “discouraged workers” and people who have dropped out of the labor market for a variety of reasons (returned to school, retired, gone on disability, chosen to stay home and watch Fox News full-time, moved to the Yaak terrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency, etc.).
It’s true that economists have different metrics (six of them, as it happens) for calculating unemployment. The official rate is known as “U-3”; Mr. Bolling’s preferred statistic is the “U-6” rate, which does in fact take into account “people who have given up looking for work”.
Mr. Bolling says that latter number “hasn’t budged a bit in eight years”. Well, let’s see:
In February of 2009, right after Barack Obama took office, the numbers were:
U-3: 8.3 % U-6: 15.2%
The continuing effects of the “Great Recession” peaked in October 2009:
U-3: 10% U-6: 17.1% 1
Since then, both trends have been downward (i.e. getting better). As of December 2016:
U-3: 4.7% U-6: 9.2%
The only way Eric Bolling can make his “alternative fact” claim is by comparing apples to oranges—that is, comparing today’s current U-6 rate to the U-3 rate that Obama inherited. The “actual fact,” however, is that both rates have come down from their “Great Recession” peaks; the U-3 is less than half of what it was in October 2009 and the U-6 is just more than half of what it was at that time.
Of course, Eric Bolling is an idiot, but that’s no excuse2; maybe we can summon the ghost of the late Johnny Paycheck to pen "Take Your Alternative Facts and Shove Them".
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/02/unemployment-rate-fell-but-a-more-realistic-rate-is-higher.html This link provides the information in graphic form as well.
1 The U-6 rate soared from 8.2% in July 2006 to 17.1% in October 2009, precisely tracking the Great Recession and the collapse of the housing and financial markets. It’s hard to blame Barack Obama or Obamacare (which didn't even exist) for that.
2 We need a "U-7" measurement for "Useless Workers" like Eric Bolling.