From Statistics to Graphs to People

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Bill McBride of Calculated Risk has a knack for turning data into charts and graphs that paint pictures of the economy that even non-math folks can easily grasp. One of the ugliest charts in his repertoire is the one to the right. With regard to getting back to the employment levels before the Great Recession/Lesser Depression began, we’re at 46 months and counting, and still are around 4.6% below the pre-crash number.

Our nation has never seen a Recession like this. As Paul Krugman noted yesterday,

The bottom line is that 2011 was a year in which our political elite obsessed over short-term deficits that aren’t actually a problem and, in the process, made the real problem ­ a depressed economy and mass unemployment ­ worse.

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When you take that macro-level picture of mass unemployment down to the micro-level, the nastiness of the economy gets personal. As of Dec. 2, a whopping 3.7% of the labor force has been without a job since before June 1. The good news is that number is down from its high, but that’s still a lot of folks with one wish for the new year: a job.

Even those with jobs are struggling. Pre-2008, there were about 4.5 million people who were involuntary part time workers because of economic reasons; since 2008 that figure has roughly doubled. It’s below 9 million right now, but it’s still an enormous number.

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(These figures do not include recent college graduates unable to find jobs, by the way. Until they get that first job post-college, they aren’t included in most employment numbers. And there are LOTS of folks who graduated last May — and the May before — who are still looking for a job.)

To the MOTUs, these are statistics; to me, they are the people I see almost every day. They are my neighbors, my parishioners, and my friends. For them, my new year’s wish is that they find the jobs they so desperately seek. For the MOTUs, my new year’s wish is that they pay the taxes to fund the safety net my neighbors, parishioners, and friends so desperately need.

The moral character of a society is how they treat those on the margins. By that measure, we are in sad shape.

(Graphs courtesy of Calculated Risk.)

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