Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute shared this bit of humor regarding unemployment numbers on his blog today. It’s so true, it hurts:
P.S. Let’s close with some economic humor.
Fans of old-time comedy are probably familiar with the famous who’s-on-first exchange between Abbott and Costello.
Well, here’s a modern version of that exchange that showed up in my mailbox yesterday, only it deals with joblessness. I won’t strain credibility by asserting it’s as funny as the original sketch, but it does indirectly highlight the fact that we should focus primarily on labor force participation since that measure how many people are producing wealth for the nation.
COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.
ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible times. It’s 5.6%.
COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
ABBOTT: No, that’s 23%.
COSTELLO: You just said 5.6%.
ABBOTT: 5.6% unemployed.
COSTELLO: Right, 5.6% out of work.
ABBOTT: No, that’s 23%.
COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 23% unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, that’s 5.6%.
COSTELLO: Wait a minute! Is it 5.6% or 23%?
ABBOTT: 5.6% are unemployed. 23% are out of work.
COSTELLO: If you are out of work, you are unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, Congress said you can’t count the “out of work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.
COSTELLO: But they are out of work!
ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.
COSTELLO: What point?
ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.
COSTELLO: To whom?
ABBOTT: The unemployed.
COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.
ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking; and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.
COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment rolls, that would count as less unemployment?
ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
COSTELLO: The unemployment rate just goes down because you don’t look for work?
ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how it gets to 5.6%. Otherwise it would be 23%.
COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?
ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.
COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?
COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.
ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an economist.
COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the hell I just said!
ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like a politician.