Revised Job Figures

Government data ought to include what the average American would view as real employment.

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Over the weekend, it was reported that job growth is not what the Bush administration would have us believe it has been. In fact, we learned:

The American economy appears to have created far fewer jobs this spring than has been reported so far, a new government report indicated yesterday. That could provide further impetus for the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates when it meets Dec. 11. Because the changes were made as soon as better employment figures were available, the revisions made it seem likely that figures on job creation are also likely to be revised downward in coming months.

As long as the government's considering major changes to the way it tallies job growth, I'd like to suggest a few more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' own website defines how it tallies job growth as follows: "the total number of persons on establishment payrolls employed full or part time who received pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month. Temporary and intermittent employees are included, as are any workers who are on paid sick leave, on paid holiday, or who work during only part of the specified pay period. A striking worker who only works a small portion of the survey period, and is paid, would be included as employed under the CES definitions. Persons on the payroll of more than one establishment are counted in each establishment. Data exclude proprietors, self-employed, unpaid family or volunteer workers, farm workers, and domestic workers."

If a company hires a part-time, temporary receptionist to work, say, one day per week with no benefits, no paid vacation, and no guarantee of any income beyond a short, fixed period, would you consider that person to be employed? Would you consider the addition of this "position" to be a new "job" created by a healthy economy? I wouldn't.

Call me old-fashioned, over the hill, and hopelessly romantic, but when I think of a new job, one that should be tallied in the government's count of job creation, I don't include part-time, temporary, or "intermittent" positions (whatever they are). I even assume this "job" comes with some benefits, such as, perhaps, health insurance, paid vacation, and a 401(k) retirement savings account to which the company contributes a small amount.

If the administration wants to inspire a burst of consumer confidence (Lord knows we need such a burst at the moment), it might consider "revising" its job count to include something that more closely approximates what the average American would view as a job.