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Washington's Blog on Unemployment
November 12, 2011 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Today I am sharing with you an article arguing that unemployment rates during the Great Depression were overstated, that current unemployment rates are understated and that the two sets of data considered in combination indicate that we are are firmly in Depression-era levels of unemployment.
posted by jason's_planet (78 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a long post, but I'm already seeing a certain amount of cherry-picking of statistics and deceptive scare headlines:

More People Are Unemployed than During the Great Depression

Well, yes, because there are more people in the United States. Duh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2011 [20 favorites]


His blogroll does little for his credibility.
posted by fatbird at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm thankful that the US is pulling out of Iraq. I'm not thankful that Iraq veterans are being mustered out to a country with not enough open civilian positions for them to fill.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The economy and the population are both so fundamentally different and fluid than they were during the 20s and 30s that even if this were true, what does it really mean? We're in the midst of a huge cultural and technological shift in addition to an economic disaster. Things will never be like they were again and it will take decades for this to shake out and the true implications of the employment shift to be examined and determined.
posted by dave78981 at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been saying this for years. 6 years ago we were told, "The economy is on the rise, Wall Street is making record profits,blah, blah,blah" All I could see around me was the rise of unemployment, the disappearance of the middle-class, and students graduating with enormous debt, unable to find jobs.

A new wrinkle in the under-reported rates of unemployment that I just heard of: My neighbor's IT job went from full time salaried position with benefits --> full time salaried position without benefits and a 10% pay cut --> an hourly position --> no hours. He will receive no unemployment because he isn't "fired" he just isn't getting any hours. All this happened in the space of 3 months.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2011 [32 favorites]


Cue right-wing apologists: "You see, the Great Depression really wasn't as bad as people make it out to be. The New Deal was just an excuse to encroach on states' rights, free markets and arrgllllbrrhghh...." *falls over, foaming at mouth*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:54 AM on November 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


From the linked article: Specifically, government workers were counted as unemployed by Stanley Lebergott.

The article therefore argues that the rates in the 1930s are artificially high, whereas actually they are roughly the same as now - unemployment is as bad now as in the Great Depression.

But this appears to be wrong: it is not that "government workers" were counted as unemployed, but people in Depression make-work government schemes. Which is an important difference.

From Employment and Unemployment in the 1930s by Margo, on this claim:
In counting persons on work relief as unemployed, Lebergott (1964) was effectively following census practice in 1940. Darby (1976, p. 5) challenged this practice, arguing that "[f]rom the Keynesian viewpoint, labor voluntarily employed on contracyclical... government projects should certainly be counted as employed. On the search approach to unemployment, a person who accepts a job and withdraws voluntarily from the activity of search is clearly employed." The logic of Darby's position can be debated. Although he claims that Keynesians would "certainly" count persons on work relief as employed, he identifies no Keynesians who ever held this view. The instructions to enumerators of the 1940 census specify several instances in which unemployed persons who were not actively seeking work (for example, because there was no work to be found in their occupation in their community) were still to be counted as unemployed (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1983, section 6, p. 27). Consistency with the search approach to unemployment would, at
the very least, require that such persons be separated out from the unemployed who were actively searching for work, which Darby fails to do. I am grateful to Stanley Lebergott for these points. For a detailed critique of Darby (1976), see Kesselman and Savin (1978).
posted by alasdair at 8:55 AM on November 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


but I'm already seeing a certain amount of cherry-picking

None of them as bad as your own; that's not the core of his argument. In that sentence he's quoting his own observation about absolute numbers from January 2009 there; he makes the case that the rate of unemployment is at least comparable to the Great Depression both before and after that point.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hmmm. I should add: it's not that I want to down-play the current economic problems. We may be at the start of the 1930s, and it's a decade of woe to come (hopefully not followed by a world war.) But we're not there yet. Whereas the Great Depression was positively apocalyptic, for the economy as a whole and for vast swathes of the population.
posted by alasdair at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2011


he just isn't getting any hours.

The American unemployment system is designed to never pay out unless the employer goes belly up. The loopholes are just too large for anything else to be the case. If a company is at least managed by some sort of primate it can and will find a way to leave disowned employees swinging.
posted by clarknova at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"So, see, THEIR calculation was wrong! They included EMPLOYED PEOPLE!! Now, let's throw that out for the one that includes ONLY UNEMPLOYED. Now, let's compare that to this measure that includes part-timers who'd like a full-time job and so isn't like the measure I'm trumpeting at all and yet I'll act like it's EXACTLY ALIKE!! DEPRESSION! DOOOOOOOOOM!!!!"

Comparing things to the Depression is the economic version of Godwin's Law. And it needs to stop. This isn't the Great Depression. It's different in a huge number of ways.
posted by dw at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cue right-wing apologists

The right wing approach, as supported by Herman Cain and Rudy Giuliani, is that people without jobs just need to try harder.

Also, Obama's fault!
posted by inigo2 at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


This isn't the Great Depression.

It's the great Emo Sulk.
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Now, let's compare that to this measure that includes part-timers who'd like a full-time job and so isn't like the measure I'm trumpeting at all and yet I'll act like it's EXACTLY ALIKE!!

Y'know those bankers you see in depression-era cartoons selling pencils from a cup? They weren't unemployed either. They were employed selling pencils from a cup. Duh.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


U6 (or U5) is pretty widely regarded as a much more accurate and historically-comparable measurement than the currently-used U3 unemployment figures (which we've only used as our official number since 1994), so skeptical folks shouldn't act like this is some crackpot theory - I've been hearing this argument for years now. While the issue of overreporting of unemployment in the 30s is interesting, the big distortion is really the underreporting of unemployment now; many, many people are excluded from the ranks of the "officially unemployed" because they have given up looking, or they're only working 5 hours a week. Seriously, this isn't a right-wing argument, you guys are being kind of silly.

Anyway, this is a really interesting post, thank you! And I award double points for using graphs from Calculated Risk (I wish our financial discussions were half as much fun as theirs).
posted by dialetheia at 9:06 AM on November 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


But this appears to be wrong: it is not that "government workers" were counted as unemployed, but people in Depression make-work government schemes. Which is an important difference.

That wasn't "make work". We actually got something for that. The National Parks system for starters.

The right wing approach, as supported by Herman Cain and Rudy Giuliani, is that people without jobs just need to try harder.

Also, Obama's fault!


No that's the lunatic Fascist approach. The right wing approach is to hand enormous sums of money to the speculators while taking their bribes into your campaign fund and accepting their advisers into your cabinet.
posted by clarknova at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Comparing things to the Depression is the economic version of Godwin's Law.

Sometimes a Hitler is just a Hitler.
posted by clarknova at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


A new wrinkle in the under-reported rates of unemployment that I just heard of: My neighbor's IT job went from full time salaried position with benefits --> full time salaried position without benefits and a 10% pay cut --> an hourly position --> no hours. He will receive no unemployment because he isn't "fired" he just isn't getting any hours. All this happened in the space of 3 months.<>

That's just fucking insane. Is that how North Carolina determines benefits? I know from long experience with the New York State system that keeping you on as a ghost "employee" doesn't matter; all that matters is how many days you worked in the previous week. Did you work less than four days? Is this situation no fault of your own? If the answer to these two questions is yes, feel free to apply.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:15 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even though many government jobs have been scaled back re: benefits and salaries they are still very good jobs.

Many current employees have been eligible to retire for years in terms of age, maxxed out in pension plans, etc. plus they are carrying tons of built up, unused leave on the books which they are still contributing to each year and for which they will get paid in a lump sum when they do retire.

I think these people should face mandatory retirement when this happens in order to open up those jobs to qualified younger people, with veteran preference.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 9:15 AM on November 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


A priori, we should expect that depression era unemployment should not be nearly as painful today as then, simply because overall improvements in efficiency permit us to provide basic subsistence essentially for free, i.e. almost nobody goes barefoot if shoes cost $5, etc.

We conversely witness extreme inequality and suffering wherever monopolies consume all those gains in efficiency for themselves, the prime example being healthcare : Insurance companies spend vast sums working out how not to provide care, pharmaceutical companies push newer on-patent overpriced and less well tested options, the American Medical Association direct artificially constrains the supply of doctors, medical school costs further artificially constrains the supply of doctors, etc.

See also : In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


he just isn't getting any hours.

The American unemployment system is designed to never pay out unless the employer goes belly up. The loopholes are just too large for anything else to be the case. If a company is at least managed by some sort of primate it can and will find a way to leave disowned employees swinging.


I've never found this to be the case. Everyone I know who's lost a job has easily gotten unemployment. Like jasons_planet says, if you didn't get work hours in the previous week, you get the money. It's not enough money to live on but you get the money.
posted by shoesietart at 9:33 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't compare it to the Great Depression, but let's not discount it. It is a mini depression for a great majority if the country, and it's only getting worse.
posted by Malice at 9:34 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A new wrinkle in the under-reported rates of unemployment that I just heard of: My neighbor's IT job went from full time salaried position with benefits --> full time salaried position without benefits and a 10% pay cut --> an hourly position --> no hours. He will receive no unemployment because he isn't "fired" he just isn't getting any hours. All this happened in the space of 3 months.

That's just fucking insane. Is that how North Carolina determines benefits?


Are you in North Carolina? Please check this with the state. My understanding is that the company is on the hook for unemployment benefits for the difference between normal hours and whatever they give you. This happened to a friend recently whose company was trying to lay him off in this slo-mo way; he fought back, told the company he'd be pursuing unemployment for the lost hours, and wound up never losing any hours at all as a result.
posted by gerryblog at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2011


What everybody else said, SLoG. Your friend may have a case with the state attorney general. If this happened to others as well, then it could be shown that it was a specific policy to avoid paying the unemployment benefit, as opposed to an individually mishandled case, and it gets a lot worse for them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


gerryblog: is it really correct to say that the employer is "on the hook" there? I read that to mean that it's the company that's paying out the benefits.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2011


Bernanke speaks to home-coming troops at Fort Bliss, aka the modern Elysian fields

It takes more than rules, however sound, and enforcement, however diligent, to provide you and your families with a promising financial future. While I have the pulpit, so to speak, permit me to offer three pieces of advice. First, while you are in the military, take advantage of training opportunities. Many specific skills learned in the military--nursing and healthcare, mechanics, computer programming, police and security work--transfer to civilian jobs. The military also offers training in various life skills. For instance, this morning I visited the Fort Bliss Army Community Service training center, which offers classes on such financial topics as budgeting, debt management, understanding credit, car buying, and protecting against identity theft. More broadly, according to a recent study, 80 percent of veterans said their military experience helped them get ahead in life.1 They said the experience helped them mature, taught them to work with others, and built their self-confidence. The value of military experience is reflected in the fact that the unemployment rate for veterans tends to be lower than the rate for non-veterans.2

Second, when you leave the military, take advantage of education benefits for veterans. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays for tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and books and supplies. Keep in mind that, on average, compared with high school graduates, people with college degrees earn about twice as much and suffer about half the rate of unemployment.3

Finally, educate yourself about your own personal finances. Research by the Federal Reserve right here at Fort Bliss shows that financial education can pay off.4 Beginning in 2003, the Federal Reserve collaborated with Army Emergency Relief, the U.S. Army's own financial assistance organization, to provide a two-day financial education course, taught by the staff of San Diego City College, to younger enlisted soldiers--mostly men in their early 20s. We surveyed them about their financial history and activities at the time of the course, and we did follow-up surveys in 2008 and 2009 of both servicemembers who had participated in the course and soldiers who had not. We found that soldiers who had taken the course were more likely to make smart financial choices, such as comparison shopping for major purchases, saving for retirement, and educating themselves about money management. They were less likely to make questionable financial decisions, like paying overdraft fees, taking out car title loans, and continually running credit card balances. Making good, well-thought-out financial decisions can make all the difference to your financial future.



Tldr;

Thanks for serving. Your economy is fucked & you won't find employment. This isn't our fault, please don't rush off and join OWS. Oh, and there's probably another 50,000 of you soon, unless we get into gear and go through Syria to Iran.
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Analysis:

Point 1: Unemployment rate is large, and growing, in the age bracket of most of these service(wo)men - so being under that rate is hardly a massive endorsement of the skills that military life gives you.

Point 2: Student debt ($1 trillion) is a massive issue at the moment, so advising to go load up on it is rather cynical, but it does kick the can down the road 3-4 years to buy us time. Oh, and if you want to live in Detroit, yes, you can pick up a house for $500, as long as you take on the crippling mortgage and want to live in an economically & doomed area.

Point 3: This would be all well and good if Bernanke & the Federal reserve wasn't up to its eyeballs in financial crime, bad lending and a current implosion on Wall St. [MF Global -- best buddies with Obama, $750 mil still "missing", 2000+ employees just fired].



It isn't 2000, and there's a massive storm coming your way.
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 10:07 AM on November 12, 2011


For whatever it's worth, the second sentence here:

The economy and the population are both so fundamentally different and fluid than they were during the 20s and 30s that even if this were true, what does it really mean? We're in the midst of a huge cultural and technological shift in addition to an economic disaster.

seems to me to be a solid definition of what capitalism is: a continual cultural and technological shift tied to an ongoing economic disaster. The specific nature of the technology involved has changed (as it always does), but the underlying process that we're dealing with is the same.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


gerryblog: is it really correct to say that the employer is "on the hook" there? I read that to mean that it's the company that's paying out the benefits.

The economics of this are somewhat complicated and having little experience in the area I don't really understand how it works exactly. But my understanding is that employers have a balance sheet with the state that corresponds to the number of former employees they have drawing benefits. This is why employers try to fight people from getting unemployment benefits; if they weren't ultimately paying for it, why would they care?
posted by gerryblog at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2011


An eHow on how to file for partial unemployment in North Carolina.
posted by gerryblog at 10:13 AM on November 12, 2011


U6 (or U5) is pretty widely regarded as a much more accurate and historically-comparable measurement than the currently-used U3 unemployment figures (which we've only used as our official number since 1994), so skeptical folks shouldn't act like this is some crackpot theory

This is wildly incorrect. The revision of 1994 changed the labeling of the headline unemployment figure (what is now called U3 used to be called U5) and made some revisions around the edges to who got counted in what category, but today's headline unemployment figure is highly comparable to the pre-1994 headline unemployment figure. For entirely understandable reasons, economists have always wanted to be able to distinguish between those who simply choose not to be employed and those who are actively seeking employment but unable to find it. They have also always recognized (and always recognized the difficulty of counting) the number of those who are so discouraged by their prospects that they have simply given up looking for work. That is what the different U3, U6 etc. categories are trying to capture.

There was, however, no wholesale revision of our understanding of the meaning of "unemployed" in 1994. If there had been, we would have seen the headline unemployment rate take a massive, discontinuous, one-time tumble that year. We didn't.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


In North Carolina, you can only collect unemployment if you're let go "through no fault of your own." All the employer has to do is say that they are letting you go for underperformance. Voila, no unemployment benefits. Right to work state, y'all.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:16 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I started to write a long detailed post, but y'all will have to wait till I write my book, I suppose.

Long story short: All the mitigation measures, consumer/worker protections and systems protection measures we have now that we didn't have in the 30s, and the current recession is as bad - or worse - than it was in the 30s.

That means the real problems, the fundamentals, are much, much worse than they were in the 1930s.
posted by Xoebe at 10:23 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


gerryblog: "if they weren't ultimately paying for it, why would they care?"

It is an insurance payout, and their insurance rate goes up when there are more claims on that insurance.

As reported by others, if your pay falls below the benefit amount, you can claim benefits and get a check to bring your weekly income up to the amount of the benefit. So if you are authorized for $200 a week in benefits and you only get enough hours in a given week to make $150, you get a $50 check.
posted by idiopath at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2011


I think these people should face mandatory retirement when this happens in order to open up those jobs to qualified younger people, with veteran preference.

Will someone explain to me why it's a good idea to discriminate in favor of people who had one particular kind of job in the past? If we're going to go down that road, I personally would like to see us discriminate in favor of laid-off teachers and burned-out former pastors, but no one is going to do that. Former soldiers can go apply for jobs based on their experience, education, and skills, just like the rest of us.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:58 AM on November 12, 2011 [8 favorites]



Will someone explain to me why it's a good idea to discriminate in favor of people who had one particular kind of job in the past?.... Former soldiers can go apply for jobs based on their experience, education, and skills, just like the rest of us.


[R2-D2 and Chewbacca are playing the holographic game aboard the Millennium Falcon]
Chewbacca: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!
C-3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.
Han Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Han Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
Chewbacca: Grrf.
C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.





If you cannot see the reason that the people in charge treat people carefully who they've taught to kill other humans with extreme skill, I despair, I really do. Look to Mexico - the Zetas are a highly trained, ex-military outfit who were trained in the USA at the School of the Americas. That amount of training + no compunction over killing + access to military grade weaponry = destabilisation of an entire country.


Jesus wept. Open your eyes.
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 11:08 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not thankful that Iraq veterans are being mustered out to a country with not enough open civilian positions for them to fill.

Here in Indiana, the state employment agency has just started a program where job postings are made available elusively to veterans for at least a week before being made available to the general public.

Service guarantees citizenship.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:54 AM on November 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


But, as many economists point out, the fact is that massive military spending actually increases unemployment in the long-run.

Well, that's not good, considering where we are now. Hopefully the flow of easy money from China stops sooner rather than later, so that we are forced to deal with this before the pain worsens.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:17 PM on November 12, 2011


>>Comparing things to the Depression is the economic version of Godwin's Law.

>Sometimes a Hitler is just a Hitler.


Um, did you just do that Glenn Beck thing where FDR gets equated with Hitler?

'Cause like, Hitler had that whole, you know, Holocaust thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on November 12, 2011


Um, did you just do that Glenn Beck thing where FDR gets equated with Hitler?

Word of academic career advice: avoid the Miller.
posted by clarknova at 12:26 PM on November 12, 2011


Secret Life of Gravy wrote: He will receive no unemployment because he isn't "fired" he just isn't getting any hours. All this happened in the space of 3 months.

He's still counted as unemployed. (or would be, were he to take part in the HH survey) The question isn't "are you drawing unemployment benefits," but more along the lines of "are you looking for work and unable to find it".

Also, it sounds like your friend can indeed receive unemployment. It's called "constructive dismissal."
posted by wierdo at 12:28 PM on November 12, 2011


MetaFilter: y'all will have to wait till I write my book, I suppose.
posted by sveskemus at 12:32 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


the current recession is as bad - or worse - than it was in the 30s

This statement is absurd on its face to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Great Depression. If you're massaging statistics to the point where they tell you that our current recession is indistinguishable in terms of worker impact from the Great Depression then you've gone past rolfing the figures and you're just driving over them with a steamroller.
posted by yoink at 12:35 PM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


dw wrote: Comparing things to the Depression is the economic version of Godwin's Law. And it needs to stop. This isn't the Great Depression. It's different in a huge number of ways.

And it's clearly more alike than you'd care to admit. I am of the belief (subject to further evidence) that there are two main reasons we aren't quite where we were during the Depression: First, the Fed has actually taken its role semi-seriously and has at least attempted to resolve liquidity crises. Secondly, we have a lot more in the way of automatic stabilizers, including unemployment insurance, than we had in the Depression. Otherwise, we've even got the drought.

madcaptenor wrote: gerryblog: is it really correct to say that the employer is "on the hook" there? I read that to mean that it's the company that's paying out the benefits.

Claims make their UI rates go up, so yeah, in a sense, the employer will be on the hook. They do things like this precisely because there's so much confusion about what qualifies an employee/former employee for UI that many employees won't file, thus keeping their UI rates low.

sonic meat machine wrote: In North Carolina, you can only collect unemployment if you're let go "through no fault of your own." All the employer has to do is say that they are letting you go for underperformance. Voila, no unemployment benefits. Right to work state, y'all

They have to prove their claim of cause with documentation. Unless they're forging write-ups, they're not likely to win in the face of a steadfast former employee with plenty of time on their hands, so long as the former employee doesn't go apeshit and act like a nutter.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 PM on November 12, 2011


Yes, back in the day, if you were in the army, you were neither counted as in the workforce or employed and factoring them in made employment rates look better. This is true (though I'm probably oversimplifying). But I vaguely remember when they started factoring the military in and it didn't make all that much of a difference so I'm kinda gonna have to file this guy in the same file as I put statements from people who claim we haven't really made any medical advances in the last fifty years, or that cars today break down more than back in the day.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2011


Here, by the way, is a pretty good refutation of the asinine claims in the blog to which OP links. It's a paper that tries to reconstruct a theoretical U6 number for the 1930s and arrives at a peak of 37%.

The notion at U6 is the 'real' unemployment number and U3 is some kind of secret govt. coverup has bizarre currency these days. Both numbers are useful. Both tell us certain things about the state of the economy. Neither is more "real" than the other. The only thing that is completely bogus is comparing the U3 from one era (or its equivalent) with the U6 (or its equivalent) from another--and that is what this Great Recession/Great Depression comparison is doing.
posted by yoink at 12:52 PM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


So I wonder what would've happened if Hoover had won a second term, or if Landon had taken down FDR in '36?

Guess we're about to find out.
posted by hangashore at 12:54 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just found out that they are shutting down the call centre I worked at a little while ago, and shipping all of the jobs overseas.

It is structural. The idiots at the top have decided that they don't really want customers for anything - or so I can only assume, because they seem bent on destroying those customers economically.

I'm just glad I've got a public sector job now, because it can't be outsourced. And I'll stay in the public sector for the rest of my life if I can.
posted by jb at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2011


> Guess we're about to find out.

Interesting! Will it be zombie Hoover or zombie Landon?
posted by jfuller at 1:14 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


They have to prove their claim of cause with documentation. Unless they're forging write-ups, they're not likely to win in the face of a steadfast former employee with plenty of time on their hands, so long as the former employee doesn't go apeshit and act like a nutter.

Protip: it ain't hard to forge writeups. Another trick employers pull is to gaslight employes they're about to sack, just so they behave like a nuttter and can be denied unemployment.

Another protip: never participate in an exit interview. It gives your employer a chance to manipulate you into making a statement that's grounds for benefit denial, and even if you don't, the boss will have a loyal witness on hand who can be convinced you did. Conversely the exit interview does nothing for you. Ever.

Like I said, if the management has the brains of your basic gorilla the are loopholes they can and will exploit. The system is designed to punish them for compliance (by raising their UI rates) and aid them in denial (by putting the burden of legal proof on economically vulnerable ex-employees).
posted by clarknova at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Will it be zombie Hoover or zombie Landon?

Zombie Coolidge, since he totally rocked the whole undead thing (Dorothy Parker, on Coolidge's death: "How can they tell?").
posted by hangashore at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2011


The notion at U6 is the 'real' unemployment number and U3 is some kind of secret govt. coverup has bizarre currency these days. Both numbers are useful. Both tell us certain things about the state of the economy. Neither is more "real" than the other.

Exactly. Given you have to dig into the trenches on this one here on MeFi, yoink, I fear this argument is unsustainable many other places.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on November 12, 2011


All the mitigation measures, consumer/worker protections and systems protection measures we have now that we didn't have in the 30s, and the current recession is as bad - or worse - than it was in the 30s.

The reason we care about unemployment is its impact on people. Saying that unemployment would be higher without mitigation is like saying that sickness would be worse without palliative care. You could equally say that we're sicker today than we were in the 1930s - after all, there are many people today who are only alive because of modern disease management.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2011


I'm thankful that the US is pulling out of Iraq. I'm not thankful that Iraq veterans are being mustered out to a country with not enough open civilian positions for them to fill.

Your two sentences have nothing to do with each other. No one is being "mustered out" because the U.S. is reducing military presence in Iraq. Enlistments are not based on the length of any military operation; they are based on a specific time that the person signs up for ahead of time. Yes, people can be stop-lossed, but it doesn't happen much these days, and it doesn't extend their enlistment for more than a few months in the vast, vast majority of cases.
posted by Etrigan at 2:28 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


ll the employer has to do is say that they are letting you go for underperformance. Voila, no unemployment benefits

I do not know about n Carolina per se but I do know that the tactic of employers claiming employee fault is a fairly common one and unemployment offices know about this. Several years ago in California when I had chemo and needed to leave work my employer denied my disability claiming that I had just quit without cause. I sent the emails documenting my conversations with my employer to the EDD occice and two weeks later I was reinstated and was able to collect unemployment after my disability had ended.

Employers redoing this a lot now betting that some people will not know their rights but , in many if not most states, all you have to do is contest the employer decision and provide documentation and you are back on course so FYI.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:16 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reading this article, and trying to objectively read for content, what the hell am I supposed to do with the information presented? Commit suicide because there's absolutely no hope for any of us, or what? I don't doubt that many will be starting over much, much smaller, but they will still eat. Our entire American civilization will not expire just because we currently have high unemployment. We just won't be getting the kids thousand-dollar holiday gifts for a while. Our grandparents got an orange.

These articles sound like the tripe that a regime bent on world domination would promulgate to sow fear and dissent among the 99%, without proffering any real plan of action. Despair! The end is near!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:42 PM on November 12, 2011


After reading this article, and trying to objectively read for content, what the hell am I supposed to do with the information presented?

You could protest income inequality, maybe. There happen to be a few public demonstrations you can join right now.
posted by clarknova at 7:49 PM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, it seems in Illinois, you can pull something like that.

My ex-wife used to work for a fairly major grocery chain who would put people on indefinite layoff, instead of termination as a technique to avoid paying unemployment.
posted by Samizdata at 8:20 PM on November 12, 2011


Again, the scheme relies on workers not knowing and exercising their rights. In most states (and Illinois is included, as best I can tell), an hourly worker scheduled for zero hours would be covered beginning in the second week.

Being laid off, even temporarily, is covered in all of the several states I'm familiar with the law.

However, when an employer pulls something like that, workers often aren't aware that they are eligible for UI. Sometimes they even tell the workers they're not eligible even though the worker is in fact eligible. Some employers even go so far as to dispute every claim, but that still doesn't mean the employee is screwed. There are many levels of appeals, and the former employee has lots of time on their hands.
posted by wierdo at 8:34 PM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, the crazy is out in force today. People who are laid off, temporarily or not, are eligible for unemployment insurance. No hours = no job. weirdo is right, many states require a one week buffer before benefits are paid.
posted by gjc at 9:15 PM on November 12, 2011


Here's another fun fact: in Colorado applicants for UI must submit a request for a so-called CAP Card, which is simply a debit card issued by Chase bank. If you end up qualifying for benefits any use you make of that money has to be through Chase debit transactions. So all state money must first filter through their coffers, earning them interest. And if you're never awarded the benefit? Well they still collected a processing fee.

Chase was one of the top 4 credit default swap traders, and they were one of the TARP recipients. So not only did they bloody us with the recession, and no only did they get rewarded for it, in CO they also get to skim off the top of the misery they caused. They got us coming and going.

Wow, the crazy is out in force today. People who are laid off, temporarily or not, are eligible for unemployment insurance. No hours = no job.

It is my sincere hope you are never unjustly disabused of that naivete.
posted by clarknova at 9:46 PM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, the crazy is out in force today. People who are laid off, temporarily or not, are eligible for unemployment insurance.

What state do you live in?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:04 PM on November 12, 2011


Also, how many years of an awful economy are required before a depression is called? If you look at the Great Depression, it was two recessions linked by several years of "growth", followed by the worst war humanity has ever waged. Is it that last that requires our situation be called a depression?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:59 PM on November 12, 2011


That amount of training + no compunction over killing + access to military grade weaponry = destabilisation of an entire country.


Cheradine Zakalwe, you have your head so far up your ass about the professional men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces you wouldn't know it was daylight if you were standing on the sun.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:24 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


That amount of training + no compunction over killing + access to military grade weaponry = destabilisation of an entire country.


Cheradine Zakalwe, you have your head so far up your ass about the professional men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces you wouldn't know it was daylight if you were standing on the sun.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:24 AM on November 13 [+] [!]


It could be worse, he/she at least doesn't know about the Friekorps, or I'd assume we'd be hearing all about them.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:46 AM on November 13, 2011


Psssst.... Don't waste your time on the troll; they're gone. (Finally.)
posted by inigo2 at 5:14 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, new sign up to flame out record?

cheers inigo2
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:13 AM on November 13, 2011


All the employer has to do is say that they are letting you go for underperformance. Voila, no unemployment benefits.

Denials can be appealed. I had a friend who was fired and the employer said it was for always being late. I helped her write her appeal and in it she asked that her employer provide timecards that proved she'd been late. She won. Larger companies usually have employee handbooks and if you are denied unemployment benefits, make sure the company has followed its own policies. Also, if you're denied unemployment for underperforming, it should have been documented. If your last performance reviews were fine and suddenly you're fired for underperforming, that looks fishy.

Unless you're fired for something egregious like stealing, always appeal. That's also why you always save complimentary emails - great job, it's always a pleasure working with you; thank you for being so attentive; You are a God, etc. Save this shit, no matter who it's from including coworkers, customers, other bosses, folks from other departments. You never know when it'll come in handy.

Remember the state is the one who decides whether you get the benefits, not your former employer. The state wants to ensure that you didn't quit or perform your job so badly the employer was justified in letting you go. That's why you should also always apply for benefits, even if your employer says you're not entitled to them or if you're not sure, let the state decide and tell you why.
posted by shoesietart at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2011


Also, how many years of an awful economy are required before a depression is called? If you look at the Great Depression, it was two recessions linked by several years of "growth", followed by the worst war humanity has ever waged. Is it that last that requires our situation be called a depression?

There is no official definition of a depression. It's simply a particularly severe or extended recession. The latest recession was very severe, but not particularly extended. It has been over for a long time. We are not currently (and have not been for some time) in a recession by anybody's definition of the term (GDP is growing, albeit not fast enough to repair the damage done by the recession).

What we are in is a painfully slow recovery, not a recession.

Oh, and WWII was not (again, by anybody's definition) a part of the Great Depression. On the contrary, it was the final and definitive cure for the Great Depression.
posted by yoink at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2011


And, FWIW, WWI was worse.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2011


What we are in is a painfully slow recovery, not a recession.

It's not 4th stage mesothelioma, it's an opportunity to pursue palliative strategies!
posted by clarknova at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And just for the sake of things, a recession also is defined in different ways depending on who you ask, but a common definition is two consecutive quarters of falling registered economic output.
posted by Catfry at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2011


Well, the difference is that there actually is a business cycle dating process followed by the NBER. Before it did this, there was a lot more murky vagueness about when we were or weren't in a recession. Note also that terminology of the 19th century tended to be either "panic" or "depression", both used for what we would now call a recession.

Given that we are now in a pattern of two successive extended jobless recoveries, I'm tempted to say that we need another word here.

It's important to distinguish that we are in a jobless recovery, because the economic prescription is somewhat different from that to follow at the beginning of a recession. It's a little like knowing whether to brake or accelerate at different points driving a curve. We're well into liquidity trap territory now, unfortunately, and don't have much choice. Welcome to the Lost Decade.
posted by dhartung at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, the crazy is out in force today. People who are laid off, temporarily or not, are eligible for unemployment insurance. No hours = no job. weirdo is right, many states require a one week buffer before benefits are paid.

No, the real unemployment law crazy is in full force at the state-level in places like Florida--where under our newest unemployment reforms employers can deny benefits on the basis of "employee misconduct" outside the workplace, defined as doing or saying anything that doesn't take the employer's business interests into account in one's spare time. That's where the crazy is--in the explicit letter of current unemployment law in Florida, and I doubt Florida's the only state with such massive coverage loopholes.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:25 AM on November 14, 2011


Also, there are an awful lot of confusingly contradictory claims in this thread, and I'm not sure there's any way to sort them all out, as they mostly seem to be unsupported by anything more than forceful language, agitated handwaviness, and subtle ad hominems.

Current unemployment estimates, as I understand it, are based on both the employment survey sampling numbers and on the unemployment rolls. It's a combined estimate that takes both inputs (survey and unemployment rolls) into account, so I would think it all comes down to how heavily each of those inputs is weighted. I don't think the actual case on the validity of current unemployment estimates is as simple as either side has presented it here. Please correct my understanding with cites to reliable sources for information if I'm mistaken.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:37 AM on November 14, 2011


What we are in is a painfully slow recovery, not a recession.

But that's my point. If you look at GDP during the Great Depression, you have a recession from 1929 to 1932, then weak growth, then another recession in 1937, followed by more weak growth, and finally WWII that ended it. So far we've had a recession from the end of 2007 to sometime in 2009, followed by weak growth, and possibly another recession. We're not as bad off as in the Great Depression, but it seems to me we're experiencing something like what people used to call a depression.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2011


dhartung wrote: Welcome to the Lost Decade.

As with Japan, I suspect said Lost Decade will only last as long as we continue to use half-measures (at best) to get this thing under control. Ironically, the Republican bankruptcy "reform" is probably holding us back significantly by reducing the ability of debtors to get out from under crushing debt loads. It's that debt that mutes the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary stimulus.

Were it not for that debt overhang, the tax cut half of the stimulus would have been much more effective.
posted by wierdo at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2011


I've already mentioned this in the Bank Transfer Day thread, but clarknova mentioned it here, so again :

Some states like South Carolina and California issue unemployment benefits using Bank of America prepaid debit cars, from which Bank of America then deducts debit card fees.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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