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Congressman Randy Hultgren

Representing the 14th District of ILLINOIS

Letter to the Editor: Time for a true unemployment tally

May 21, 2015
In The News

Daily Chronicle

Picture this: Rich, a 46-year-old middle-skilled worker with a wife and three kids, is laid off after 12 years at his job – he’s the sole breadwinner for his family.

Scrambling to make sure they can pay their bills, Rich looks for work but finds nothing for months. After earnestly looking for more than a year, Rich pauses his search for a month or two – perhaps he’s frustrated at the lack of jobs that he’s qualified for, or is faced with a new life circumstance that forced him to stop.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ official unemployment count, Rich isn’t actually unemployed.

Huh?

Because he stopped looking for work, he doesn’t count under the BLS’s official “U-3” number, which only counts unemployed individuals who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks. Thus, unemployment numbers are artificially deflated – failing to give all of us the full story about who is actually out of a job.

In fact, the BLS currently uses six different measures to track unemployment, including U-3. But U-3 fails to account for individuals like Rich, who, after earnestly looking for work for months or years, have stopped altogether.

Sounds ridiculous, right? If we’re going to get individuals in Illinois like Rich back to work, let’s make sure he’s actually counted as being out of work. 

I’m reminded again that when it comes to tackling a problem, the private sector understands something government bureaucracy often doesn’t: If you can’t measure it accurately, you can’t improve it. We need to tell the story of Rich and his family with real numbers that illustrate the real unemployment picture in America.

That’s why I have co-sponsored H.R. 1876, the Real Unemployment Calculation Act, which includes people like Rich in the official measure of the health of the economy. This gauge (U-5) would capture the Americans too exasperated by our slow economic growth to stay on the job hunt.

We need to make Washington face the true condition of the labor market and stop hiding behind artificially low unemployment numbers. This wake-up call will force Washington to urgently and adamantly pursue a jobs agenda that prioritizes and does right by all Americans who want a job, especially those who are most disheartened.

We can’t help get Rich back to work if we don’t notice he’s unemployed. Let’s pass H.R. 1876 to make sure he’s not forgotten.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

R-14, Winfield