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“Employment rose by 146,000 in November, and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent.”  
--- Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 7, 2012
A good day for America is a bad day for Republicans.  On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on the US employment situation.   Lately, conservatives can hardly wait for the jobs report before they start throwing out accusations of numbers fudging.  Republicans and numbers are never a good combination.  They don’t know what to do with numbers.  They think that Mathematics is a discipline that involves the use of their nose.   Watch . . .  

Where do the numbers for US employment and unemployment come from?  The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles a lot of data and categorizes individuals by their employment status, gender, ethnicity, occupation, industry, and more.  The categorization makes sense in a US Government kind of way.  

People are either in the labor force or out, employed or unemployed, and the relationships between these numbers determine the unemployment rate and other rates that are used to measure how many people are working or not.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data  can be found at
A lot of people recognize an iconic chart that the Obama administration uses to illustrate the dramatic turnaround in the US economic situation in 2009.  After the Democrats in Congress passed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in February 2009 (aka the Economic Stimulus) and its implementation began, the steep job losses that greeted President Obama when he took office, were quickly minimized and turned into job gains.
Private Sector employment has increased for 33 consecutive months.
The Private Sector is the largest of three broad categories that encompass all jobs in the US.  The other two are Farming and Government, including federal, state and local.  Farming is excluded from statistics that are familiar to the public. The exact BLS wording in Friday’s statement was, “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 146,000 in November, and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent.”

In November, the number of people working in the Private Sector rose by 147,000 while the number of people in Government fell by 1,000.  The combination of Private Sector and Government employment provides the number of jobs reported as gained or lost by the BLS each month.

While Private Sector employment rose by 905,000 since Obama took office, Government employment fell 614,000. The recession in the Private Sector was followed by a recession in Government as austerity measures were implemented at state and local levels in reaction to budget deficits.  During Obama’s first term, Government employment at the federal level held steady with a gain of 9,000 jobs, but 500,000 jobs were lost at the local level and the rest were lost at the state level.  

The next chart displays the familiar Private Sector job growth overlaid with the loss in Government jobs.  The timeline is also expanded to include 2002-2012.  The steep losses in Private Sector jobs during 2009 are visible in blue, and the mini-recession in Government jobs that followed in 2011 is visible in orange.  Now it appears a recovery in Government jobs is just beginning.

During the Bush administration, Government jobs were consistently added, visible in the orange which stays mostly above the horizontal line.  The addition of Government jobs augmented the slow to moderate growth in Private Sector jobs during those years.  

Private Sector employment is in blue,  Government employment is in orange.
There’s one more employment category that’s a popular topic for discussion today.  As outlined above, there are 88,883,000 Americans categorized as “Not in Labor Force.” (NILFs) This is a broad category that includes people who decided not to work for a variety of reasons.  It also includes a subcategory known as "NILFs who want a job."  It includes jobseekers who are categorized as “discouraged” due to long-term unemployment.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics does a great job of slicing and dicing an enormous amount of data.  It would be good if it could identify the "NILFs who want a job" more clearly.   Their number has been around for a long time.  It didn't suddenly appear with the Bush recession in 2008.  It seems to indicate something endemic in the economy even if the population of "NILFs who want a job" isn't static.  Some of them become ex-NILFs who want a job and others take their place.  Because of the attention given to them, and their long-term presence in the economy they deserve more attention.  Meanwhile, to get a better idea about the relative size of this group and visible trending, the next chart shows how the unemployment numbers would stack up if the "NILFs who want a job" were counted as part of the unemployed.
"NILFs who want a job" are an anomaly.  They are Not in Labor Force by definition, so they are neither employed nor unemployed, yet they want a job, also by definition.

5:44 PM PT: Kossacks are smart.  They want a definition  The BLS has one.  It's a bit laborious.  "NILFs who want a job" have one of these characteristics:

(1) Persons who want a job, have searched for work during the prior 12 months, and were available to take a job during the reference week, but had not looked for work in the past 4 weeks.
(2) Those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for reasons such as thinks no work available, could not find work, lacks schooling or training, employer thinks too young or old, and other types of discrimination.
(3) Those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for such reasons as school or family responsibilities, ill health, and transportation problems, as well as a number for whom reason for nonparticipation was not determined.


Should the number reported by the BLS as "NILFs who want a job" be counted as unemployed?

53%39 votes
9%7 votes
20%15 votes
1%1 votes
15%11 votes

| 73 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

    by leftreborn on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:16:30 PM PST

  •  How the heck do you count them? (5+ / 0-)

    Once I read far enough to find out that I'm a 'NILF', I had to ask how anyone would know?  There's no central agency through which I funnel my job search, and no requirement for companies to whom I apply to furnish my name to any such agency when they receive my applications, so how on earth would anyone at the BLS even know I've been looking for work?

  •  I just don't know how you can count someone (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leftreborn, skohayes

    who chooses not to look for work as "unemployed". Sure, they don't have a job, but a NILF, by definition, is someone who isn't looking for a job. If you're going to count anyone who doesn't have a job, you must count disabled, retired, children, etc.

    "Mitt Romney looks like the CEO who fires you, then goes to the Country Club and laughs about it with his friends." ~ Thomas Roberts MSNBC

    by second gen on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:28:45 PM PST

    •  Maybe they should add, (It's complicated) to the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      category.  Most of the NILF category consists of people like you described, such as retired, or work at home without paid compensation.  People under 16 aren't counted, but students over that age are.  

      "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

      by leftreborn on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:55:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's not hard. Part of the definition is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, annan, kyril

      "wants a job". People are not shy about saying so when you ask. I was a NILF in the depths of the last recession, in the year before I retired.

      I had been a Senior Technical Writer, one of the last hired, soonest fired in Silicon Valley. Then I moved to Indiana for family reasons. We scraped by.

      Oh, yeah, BTW. Hands off my Social Security and Medicare. And my son's and daughter's Obamacare. And the Medicaid expansion that is going to keep any more emergency rooms from closing down. I have had to use the ER twice so far, once in CA and once in IN. No Republican Death Panels.

      America—We built that!

      by Mokurai on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 06:26:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  harder than you think (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        second gen, skohayes

        By this definition, without being asked, I'm being counted as NILF.. I'm 74 and retired on SS.  My daughter wants a job but can't hold one due to treatable medical problems that we're trying hard to scrape up enough funds to treat, since she doesn't get any Obamacare yet and our deep-Red state refuses Medicaid expansion.  Until her boys graduated from HS they didn't have jobs, nor did they look for them.  And prior to her divorce my daughter didn't work other than part time, as she was a stay at home mom mostly.  All NILF's.. not.  Until such can be weeded out it would be very misleading to include such as we in the labor force.  

        •  No, the sensible way to count would (0+ / 0-)

          be to count the portion of persons under age 65 (or whatever the full Social Security retirement age is now) who meet the "NILF" description, and presume anyone older who is not employed to be retired. Some people keep working past retirement age, some people are successful and can retire early, but overall it makes sense to use age to make the determination. A similar presumption could be used to weed out the disabled. As for particular persons being counted one way or the other--the statistics are not that exact, all of them (including employed, actively looking, etc.) are estimates.

          "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

          by Alice in Florida on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:45:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Wow. (8+ / 0-)

    I saw that title and I suspected a typo.
    I thought you had to mean MILFs.

    "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State ..."- Vermont Constitution Chapter 1, Article 16

    by kestrel9000 on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:29:55 PM PST

  •  As a practical matter, how would NILF's (0+ / 0-)

    "who want a job" be identified? Through polling? As self-identifiers?

    What does "want a job" mean? A vague sense that if someone knocked on their door offering easy work for high wages they might accept it?

    Is "want a job" the same thing as "want a disposable income"?

    The questions go on and on. Might you suggest some more concrete, quantifiable category on which to base the BoL stats?

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by DaNang65 on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:32:33 PM PST

    •  I posted an update with the BLS definition. / (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

      by leftreborn on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:46:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree... (7+ / 0-)

      I'm married to a NLIF, and every time I hear the unemployment stats it infuriates me.  My husband has been unemployed for nearly four years now.  He has NOT "dropped out" of the work force - he was laid off thanks to the Bush economy; neither has he given up actively looking.  What makes him so different from any other person in this economy looking for work?  I tend to think it's because his unemployment insurance ran out a long time ago, and, since he didn't find employment prior to it running out, as far as the government is concerned, he has "dropped out" and no longer "wants a job."  To which I say "bull$$it."

      This NLIF number is going to keep going up, because by default, once someone runs out of unemployment insurance and still doesn't have a job, they ARE a NLIF!

      Yes, at 60, hubby fits the last part of this description:

      (2) Those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for reasons such as thinks no work available, could not find work, lacks schooling or training, employer thinks too young or old, and other types of discrimination.
      But until a process is begun to actively take on age discrimination in this country, my husband and so many others are invisible.  They end up feeling "worthless" and like their only hope is to just hold on until they're old enough for social security -- or they commit suicide.  Our country defines an individual based mainly upon the work they do.  Take that away long enough, and you take away the essence of the man.

      This is the reason so many more people are opting for early "retirement" and taking the lower monthly incomes.  SOMETHING is better than NOTHING -- even if it hurts them in the long run.  At least they can feel they contribute to their family once again. Geesh! Talk about being invisible in this society!  

      There are never going to be enough jobs for everyone who wants one.  And I don't think we're going to get a true handle on the real unemployment numbers until the Repubs grow up and start abiding by the oath of office they took.  Either that, or there's so few of them in Congress (along with Blue Dogs and Third Way groups), that Progressives have a free hand in crafting (and experimenting) with new methods for helping the 99%!

      Two of the main methods I believe would help immensely are (1) "Medicare for All" and (2) lowering the retirement age for Social Security - along with lifting the amount of SS for each by a percentage - at least until the economy is functioning at an acceptable level for the 99%.  That means all the young and under-50's who want a decent job have a decent  job, for example.

      That's just 2 cents from a wife worried and sick at what Bush's legacy has done to her husband.

      •  Thanks for writing something real. It's not easy (0+ / 0-)

        for people to address this topic.  Maybe I didn't present it properly and so it wasn't taken seriously.  

        When the employment situation report is released each month it gets a lot of attention.  It's great that the numbers are getting better instead of worse, and there's a long way to go.  During the Great Depression in the 1930s, after some progress had been made in FDR's first term, the Democrats lost heart and decided to cut spending and back off from the solutions that were working.  The result in 1937 and 1938 was that conditions worsened until the earlier successful approach was resumed.  

        The progress achieved now isn't enough and more effort is needed, even if it's costly.   The Republicans are crying for spending cuts when it isn't the time for that.   It's amazing they can think of giving enormous tax cuts to a tiny minority of the wealthy and they can't think of ways to use an equivalent sum of money to invest in the people of this country, or even the improvement of its physical infrastructure.  

        You're on the right track by thinking about early retirement as a possible solution for some of the people who don't fit neatly into outdated categories.  Rather than let people hang indefinitely there should be steps in that direction.

        "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

        by leftreborn on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 10:49:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  And it makes more sense now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why I never heard about NILF's before.  It's because you're not supposed to.  Because if they exist, then the numbers come out all wrong.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:33:25 PM PST

  •  Oh, crap, I thought it said "MILFs". lol. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But I am reading the diary anyway and so far it does not disappoint.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 07:45:46 PM PST

    •  The economy needs additional spending to further (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the progress that has been achieved so far.  The job isn't done yet.  Unfortunately, when you call for more investment in people and infrastructure today, everyone thinks you've lost your mind.  If Romney got elected the Republicans were ready to shovel out $5 trillion in tax cuts.  Can't an equivalent amount be committed for other things or do we only make allowances for the elite?

      "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

      by leftreborn on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 10:54:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Apple alone is sitting on about 1/8 of a trillion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        dollars at the moment. At some point if private companies won't put their cash to good use, it will have to be done some other way.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:48:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  what makes you think they are just (0+ / 0-)

          sitting on that much money. They spend a ton of money.. and they get more back. everytime they spend the money or people spend money on their products and services it's taxed.

          •  It's called more or less "cash" on the balance (0+ / 0-)

            sheet, I think. So that means it hasn't been spent to acquire a company, build a factory, pay for R&D, etc. For years, analysts have been speculating on what Apple would do with its "growing cash hoard". So I infer that it's doing the minimum with it, which would be something like collecting interest on it.

            Their total revenue for 2012 is given here as 156.5 billion (up from 108.3 and 65.2 billion in 2011 and 2010).

            Their net income for those years is given as 41.7, 25.9, and 14 billion respectively.

            They haven't been paying a dividend, but started this calendar year on July 1, and that will amount to 9.9 billion a year. That's about 24 percent of their net income for 2012.

            So it will slow the cash accumulation some. That dividend is about 3 times their R&D for 2012, though.

            So I think that saying they have been doing relatively little with their cash is more or less accurate. They have been keeping it "in the bank", and we know what banks have been doing with "their" cash: not much.

            Oh, and their income tax expense is shown as 14, 8.3, and 4.6 billion for the respective years. Or about 33, 32, and 33 percent. Not bad for a corporation, compared to a lot of them. So there's that at least.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:16:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I'm an Apple fanboy, I should mention. (0+ / 0-)

            Just to make it clear I have no beef against them in general. I switched to Apple products in about 1980 and have never looked back.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:17:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Great Post!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Very easy to read...
    and of course I luv the charts...

    I wonder how many NILF's are just under retirement age and have been purged from work (high earners go first) waiting for that next phase of their life??

    I see that happening more and more


  •  all persons between 18-65/67 w/out a job (0+ / 0-)

    should be counted as unemployed.  Anything less is fudging the numbers IMO; lowering unemployment without actually creating jobs.  That or flat out arguing that certain demographics don't need jobs.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 09:36:59 AM PST

    •  Not exactly (0+ / 0-)

      Full-time college/grad/vocational students without jobs probably shouldn't be counted as unemployed.

      Stay-at-home parents/spouses probably shouldn't be counted as unemployed.

      Early retirees (e.g. military, police, and fire veterans, who can retire as early as 38 with a full pension, and often retire completely from the labor force by 50) probably shouldn't be counted as unemployed.

      Members of any of the above groups may, in fact, be unemployed, but it shouldn't just be assumed; they should have to 'opt in' to the count. Otherwise we'd get a picture distorted in the other direction, counting people who wouldn't even take a job if a perfectly-suited one fell in their laps.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 01:49:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  this is a conservative argument (0+ / 0-)
        people who wouldn't even take a job if a perfectly-suited one fell in their laps.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:35:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  er, no (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not talking about the 'lazy unemployed' conservative trope. I'm talking about the millions of people who simply have other plans - whether it's focusing on their education, or devoting time to their families, or traveling and enjoying their early retirement after 20-30 years of service in a difficult and dangerous job.

          These are not lazy people. These are not unmotivated people. Grad students, for instance, probably work as hard as or harder than almost any category of white-collar employee. I'm not accusing them of anything at all negative. I'm simply stating a fact: Some people actually really truly do not want (or need) jobs and would not take one if offered. Some people actually voluntarily quit their jobs to pursue something else (education, family, art, whatever) and are not interested in taking another in the near future.

          These people are not unemployed in any meaningful sense, because no amount of job creation would ever make them employed. And they have little or nothing in common with the population of actual unemployed people who need help. They have financial support/stability, direction, and meaning in their lives. They have plans for the future. They are, by and large, happy, healthy, and secure.

          They are definitely not the same people attacked by conservatives; I'm not, for instance, talking about people on welfare. Or 20-somethings who've put their lives on hold and gone back to live with their parents because they couldn't find jobs. Or older people forced into involuntary retirement with inadequate financial resources. Or even people who've reluctantly gone back to school to try and bide their time until the economy recovers. Those groups are unemployed, they do need jobs, they would take jobs if we created decent ones. We need to count them, but we also need to leave out the happy/healthy voluntarily-non-employed.

          "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

          by kyril on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:53:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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