The REAL Unemployment Rate

By Cam Mather

I did a radio interview with WMKT in Michigan last week and the host and I talked about the unemployment rate. We were discussing North American natural gas reserves and he was mentioning a large discovery of shale gas in Northern Michigan. When I commented on the high-energy return on investment and horrendous environmental impacts of “fracking” rock to leach gas out of it, he reminded me that with 27% unemployment in some parts of the state, there would likely be great support for the jobs it would bring.

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You don’t often hear anyone admit that level of unemployment. The government and the mainstream media report a much lower level than that. Usually you have to go to websites like “” to hear the more believable and accurate unemployment figures. If you take a look at how the unemployment rate is calculated in the U.S. these days, you’ll quickly understand that the official number is quite bogus. If you look at today’s unemployment rate versus using the same data with the 1994 method of calculating it, you see the real unemployment rate is over 20%, not the 9.8% that was the December 3, 2010 official number.

I’m getting really tired of governments giving us corrupted data. It’s easy to do, you just change the definition of the way of calculating something, in this case exclude some workers and presto, your government looks better than it really is. Democracy doesn’t always work well.

What frustrates me most is that the mainstream media buy into this fantasyland and perpetuate it. When the latest unemployment numbers were released there was surprise that they had risen by .2%. I saw one reporter on the mainstream media suggest that this up tick will cause more workers to become discouraged and this would adversely affect future reporting when they actively started to look again. Are you serious? They have been unemployed so long that they’re discouraged, but you don’t count them as unemployed anymore? They want work. That makes them unemployed. Include them in the statistic! And what about all the people working reduced hours? In the U.S. you’ve got 6 months to find a new job, then you aren’t classed as unemployed anymore.

I guess the only bright light lately has been some reporting by CBS on 60 Minutes. Two weeks in a row they ran some pretty stark stuff on the unemployment crisis in the U.S. The first week was about the 99’ers, people for whom their unemployment benefits were running out after having been extended to 99 weeks, or two years.;contentAux

In this show at a town hall meeting of unemployed in San Jose California, home of Silicon Valley, the correspondent asked how many had PhDs. A number of hands went up….The correspondent then asked how many had Masters degrees and many more hands went up. He asked “Bachelor Degrees?” and just about every hand in this audience of unemployed people was raised. This is the high tech engine of America! How could so many well-educated people not be able to find work for two years?

The following week in a segment called “Anger in the Land” they went to Newton Iowa, where Maytag has just closed a plant and moved it to Mexico.;contentAux#comments

It is so depressing to see these stories. To another group of unemployed people the correspondent asked, “How many think your kids will have a better future than you?” Not a single hand was raised. Well ain’t that America!

In the June 17, 2010 issue of Time magazine the cover story describes how disseminated state budgets are as all the unemployed can’t pay taxes, and other sources of revenue are drying up. States can’t run deficits so jobs get cut… teachers, fire fighters, cops, you name it.,8599,1997284,00.html

I cannot imagine the anguish of someone who has always assumed they’d have a job and a typical North American lifestyle being unemployed for an extended period. In a time like this when there is no sign of recovery on the horizon it must be even more devastating. We’ve witnessed the extent of the economic collapse firsthand with our plummeting U.S. book sales! People who are underwater on their mortgages, or unemployed or concerned about their financial well-being aren’t buying books. Even practical books about renewable energy and managing these challenging times.

This direct exposure to the real state of the U.S. economy makes me really skeptical about the information I get from the mainstream media. If you watch the three major network newscasts right now you’d think that Christmas holiday sales were on a tear and everything was back to normal. I’m really, really skeptical

In the meantime if you’ve got a job, start behaving like it won’t last forever. Pay off debt. Build a root cellar. Stock a pantry. Install a solar hot water heater. Build up a savings account. Plant a garden. Start acting like your great grandparents did. They knew that the good times don’t always last forever.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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