Unemployment Numbers Don't Tell The Whole Story

Jo Ann Hardesty

As reported in the Oregonian yesterday, we still enjoy the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the country.

But that is not the complete story.

Currently, unemployment statistics only address those who are actively seeking employment. The information left out of this report is critical to understanding how our economic downturn impacts Oregon families, and which communities are not even being considered.

Take into account:
  • Oregonians who have exhausted unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for a job. 
  • Oregonians who didn't make enough money in the last 4 quarters to become eligible for unemployment.
  • Oregonians working at minimum-wage jobs ... who are under-employed because they can't find a job in their field ... and will do anything to feed their families & keep a roof over their heads. 
  • Youth between 16 & 18 who nationally face an unemployment rate of over 50% and, in Oregon, are uncounted.
  • African American men, whose unemployment numbers - in good and bad economic times - are twice the average reported by the experts. In Oregon that means their unemployment rate is 24% or higher.  
  • People who have served time in the Oregon prison system.  Studies show employers are less likely to hire formerly-incarcerated persons. Their unemployment rate hovers around 60% nationally.
  • People without a home and/or phone.  In this market, employers will not go the extra mile to find homeless persons to offer them employment.  
Yes! Thousands of us are unemployed ... and our lackluster stimulus efforts will only provide real opportunity to a very small percentage of those actually counted in this report. As we continue to suffer through these tough economic times, we need to be certain that everyone counts in any 'new' economy.

Now is the time for a real dialog about the kind of economy we want in Oregon ... one that will work for the diversity of people who are suffering today!

  • Rick (unverified)

    I don't know what to believe these days. One day you here the economy is picking up and the next you get news like this. I just hope this administration can turn things around and get people working again.


  • (Show?)

    All sounds about right to me. I'd also add the numerous small business owners who aren't collecting unemployment but who are working all day without earning any money. Same for sales people working on commission. No benefits, just mounting debt. Look at the most recent quarterly payments to the state from small businesses and contractors and compare it to this time a year ago.

  • Nick (unverified)

    Good examples. One could add even more if you dig a little deeper into the statistics at http://www.bls.gov/cps/tables.htm . The numbers shown to the general public are nicely sugarcoated and mask the true extend of the current downswing.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    You forgot to add those people who come from another State after they have exhausted thier options in that other State.

  • Jan (unverified)

    Another group that could be added to the list are those of us that drive out of state to work. I live on the North Coast and drive to Seattle to work through a temp service until things improve in Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    The comments so far clearly show that we can not trust the official announcements on who is working and who is not in Oregon.

    I appreciate all the additions to my list. It was not met to be all inclusive since that would have required significantly more space.

  • Mike (unverified)

    This is old hat: U/E statistics both here and nationally are low-balled for the reasons Jo Ann listed.

  • Michael (unverified)

    Unemployment is high overall, but there is no reason to struggle there are many opportunities we can act upon! To know what I mean check out my site!

  • Kip (unverified)

    Don't expect to see any long term improvement in our economy until our nation's policy of unfettered free trade is abolished. So long as we continue to outsource jobs overseas to poverty/slave wage earning workers, we will remain on our non-stop race to the bottom as employers cut jobs and wages here.

  • Kari (unverified)

    The economic problems of our country and state are very real and the average person doesn't need a statistic to be reminded of the crunch on them!

    What we are trying to do now is bring folks into a room together to figure out how we can build an economy that works for real people. So, while keeping an eye on national legislation, state reforms, etc -- what can Benton County (or Baker, or Coos) do to bring wealth back to their community?

  • rogerisright (unverified)

    when are we going to put oregonians back to work in oregon ?? answer: as soon as we get rid of the people who are here illegally who currently have those jobs

  • Wanda (unverified)
    <h2>A lot of people forget about the unemployment numbers and how they only include certain parameters. The numbers are actually much higher, thanks for pointing that out.</h2>

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