Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Force Participation Reports May 2014: Don’t Believe the “Spin”
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, June 8, 2014
This will be of interest to the curious, especially those who seek and search for the truth.
Asserting to cite data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNS News recently reported that the Labor Force participation rate was at a 36-year low.
The headline to that story reads:
37.2%: Percentage Not in Labor Force Remains at 36-Year High
Upon examination of the BLS website, the data was found to be honest and accurate.
Information on the data set presented is:
Data extracted on: June 8, 2014 (4:07:31 PM)
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Series ID: LNS11300000
Series title: (Seas) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over
Following is the chart as shown on the BLS website:
If the information is accurate – that is, if it accurately represents the thing it purports to represent – then there is a genuine cause for concern, perhaps even alarm. But first, sometimes, information has to pass the “smell test.” If it just doesn’t sound right, dig a little deeper.
However, there is a DEFINITE skew which, when considered, renders the interpretation of the findings questionable, at best.
Since there are TWO separate entities reporting the SAME information, how could it possibly be inaccurate, or incorrect?
Let’s consider further, to determine if such alarm might be genuinely warranted.
Searching for Labor Force Participation Rate datasets from FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data, from the St. Louis Federal Reserve), returns the following: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/search?st=Civilian+Labor+Force+Participation+Rate
In the search results, we find the following: Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate – 25 to 54 years
The data set is identified as: Monthly, Not Seasonally Adjusted, LNU01300060, Updated: 2014-06-06 9:12 AM CDT
Here is the chart:
Examining the chart, what I found fascinating was the overall (longterm) rate has increased significantly.
The current rate (as of May 2014) according to Chart #3 – FRED data – reports a Civilian Labor Force Participation of 80.9% for May 2014.
It was in May 1984 when the data was similarly rated at 80.9%.
The peak of such data was 84.5% which occurred in September 1997, January 1999 & April 2000.
So, between that time – May 1984 to May 2014 – there was a variation in rate of 3.6%.
It appears that what is now being fussed over is a pittance.
While there does appear to be a downward trend. it is by no means of the magnitude of the other chart.
But, let’s examine even further, just to see if somehow, there is some variation or if there might be some error, or different information.
The data set identified and referred to in Chart #s 1 & 2 is Series ID: LNS11300000.
The data set identified and referred to in Chart #s 3 & 4 is Series ID: LNU01300060.
Clearly, those are TWO DIFFERENT data sets.
If we search for data set Series ID: LNU01300060 in the BLS website, this is what we find:
So now, that we see the data is the same, we need to ask a question, which is:
What’s the difference?
In data set “Series ID: LNS11300000” the data includes EVERYONE aged 16 up, and there is NO UPPER LIMIT. In other words, it treats EVERYONE – including an 85-year old retiree – as being part of the Labor Force… when clearly, an 85-year old retiree is NOT part of the Labor Force. Further, how many 16-year old children are going to have full time jobs? Clearly, they won’t because they’re still in high school. So it is a blatant distortion to point to that data as authoritative, or accurately representative of the scenario.
In data set “Series ID: LNU01300060” the data includes ONLY those aged 25-54, which are the MOST PRODUCTIVE years of one’s life.
In the CNS News story, that information – the details as you have read here – is NOT presented, neither do they provide a link to reference their source they purport to cite.
I find it disconcerting that often, those whom write such articles do not post their resources, which is perplexing, since we are fortunate in this era for the democratization of such data for those whom desire to research.
Now, in all fairness, we should realize also that in the same time frame, population has increased (population has increased approximately 1% each year), and workers have retired, new workers have entered the workforce, some have retired, some have re-entered the workforce, some have died, and some have quit looking for work. Realistically, how can we factor in all those variables? And yet, it is those who are unemployed, who would work, but for what ever reason (weak job market, etc.), are not searching for work. There is no data, no statistics and no official record of those individuals. Only those who are looking for work are counted in the unemployment figures. Those who are unemployed, who want to work, but are not looking for work are sometimes called “missing workers.” And yet, they must be accounted for. Again, the quandary is how to do that.
We must extrapolate from the data given, and use estimates.
Fortunately, the Economic Policy Institute – a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit economic research organization – does precisely that, with “the use of highly qualified researchers and reviews by outside experts from across the ideological spectrum.” Their analysis is released the “first Friday of every month immediately after the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its jobs numbers.”
Their data shows an approximate 2-3% difference beginning in 2009 to the current period.
Their latest estimates, including methodology explanation, may be found here: http://www.epi.org/publication/missing-workers/#chart-unemployment-rate
Let’s dig even more, shall we?
We know the Federal Reserve and Bureau of Labor Statistics, but who is CNS News?
According to the CNS News website, “CNSNews.com was launched on June 16, 1998 as a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin and seek news that’s ignored or under-reported as a result of media bias by omission.
Study after study by the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, clearly demonstrate a liberal bias in many news outlets – bias by commission and bias by omission – that results in a frequent double-standard in editorial decisions on what constitutes “news.”
In response to these shortcomings, MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III founded CNSNews.com in an effort to provide an alternative news source that would cover stories that are subject to the bias of omission and report on other news subject to bias by commission.
CNSNews.com endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story and debunk popular, albeit incorrect, myths about cultural and policy issues.
CNSNews.com has a full staff of credentialed journalists at its world headquarters in Reston, Virginia. In addition to news, CNSNews.com is proud to present commentary and analysis by some of the brightest minds and sharpest wits in the nation, including cartoonists.
CNSNews.com is a division of the Media Research Center, a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. Like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, CNSNews.com is able to provide its services and information to the public at no cost, thanks to the generous support of our thousands of donors and their tax-deductible contributions. However, unlike NPR or PBS, CNSNews.com does not accept any federal tax money for its operations.”
It all sounds good, doesn’t it?
The problem is that by reading this blog entry, you have JUST FOUND “the spin.”
CNS News claims they provide “an alternative news source.”
“An alternative” to what – the truth?
And who is L. Brent Bozell III?
We’ve read what CNS News says about him, now let’s see what others say.
Several sites – including Rational Wiki – report similar information on him, including that:
“L. Brent Bozell III is a conservative Christian and self-styled media watchdog. The nephew of conservative icon William F. Buckley, he founded the Parents Television Council and the Media Research Center, which claims to have coined the term “media bias.“”
Be assured, however, being conservative and Christian is no crime, neither is it indictment of any sort.
Yet what would you think about someone who, in 2010, said “Doesn’t he sound like that proverbial college freshman who spouts neo-Marxist pablum after one too many hits on the bong?” of former President James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr.? Bear in mind, former President Carter has a graduate degree in Nuclear Physics, and was a Navy Nuclear Officer – which is not exactly “bong” material. Media Matters has a list of numerous outlandish things Bozell III has said over the years, which may be found here: http://mm4a.org/V22RXw
Moral of this story?
Consider the source, and…
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!