Who's out of work but not unemployed?

Ethel C. Fenig
Barry Levinson, responsible for such films as Rain Man, Bugsy and Diner, channels the Abbott and Costello classic, Who's on First, to discourse on the difference between unemployment and people looking for work.

And here all along you thought they were the same.

Unemployment as reported is at 9 percent. But it's actually more than 16 percent. Some smart statistician came up with a distinction. A slight of hand to make the unemployment number tolerable rather than frightening. The concept was simple: 9 percent are unemployed and are actively looking for work. The 16 percent includes those who gave up and are no longer actively looking for work. So those casualties are no longer counted. They cease to exist. The 9 percent is a fake. A sham. And worthy of an Abbott & Costello routine. If that great comedy team were still alive, the routine on our unemployment woes might go something like this.

COSTELLO

I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

ABBOTT

Good Subject. Terrible Times. It's 9%.

COSTELLO

That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT

No, that's 16%.

COSTELLO

You just said 9%.

ABBOTT

9% Unemployed

COSTELLO

Right 9% out of work.

ABBOTT

No, that's 16%.

Read the whole thing and then sing Hooray for Hollywood! Whoops! I don't think he lives there anymore.

Give that man the Nobel Prize for Economics and nominate him to head the President's Council of Economic Advisors.

But of course President Barack Obama (D) and all the Democrats have always been inspired by economists Abbott's and Costello's Two Tens for a Five. 

Barry Levinson, responsible for such films as Rain Man, Bugsy and Diner, channels the Abbott and Costello classic, Who's on First, to discourse on the difference between unemployment and people looking for work.

And here all along you thought they were the same.

Unemployment as reported is at 9 percent. But it's actually more than 16 percent. Some smart statistician came up with a distinction. A slight of hand to make the unemployment number tolerable rather than frightening. The concept was simple: 9 percent are unemployed and are actively looking for work. The 16 percent includes those who gave up and are no longer actively looking for work. So those casualties are no longer counted. They cease to exist. The 9 percent is a fake. A sham. And worthy of an Abbott & Costello routine. If that great comedy team were still alive, the routine on our unemployment woes might go something like this.

COSTELLO

I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

ABBOTT

Good Subject. Terrible Times. It's 9%.

COSTELLO

That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT

No, that's 16%.

COSTELLO

You just said 9%.

ABBOTT

9% Unemployed

COSTELLO

Right 9% out of work.

ABBOTT

No, that's 16%.

Read the whole thing and then sing Hooray for Hollywood! Whoops! I don't think he lives there anymore.

Give that man the Nobel Prize for Economics and nominate him to head the President's Council of Economic Advisors.

But of course President Barack Obama (D) and all the Democrats have always been inspired by economists Abbott's and Costello's Two Tens for a Five.