Chart of Note: Consistent Look at Unemployment

Chart of Note: Consistent Look at Unemployment

By Kenneth Hunter

NOTE: The following represents the analysis-based opinion of the author and do not reflect those of his employer or any other affiliations

Last August, I wrote up a post for the ASPA Blog that looked at North Carolina’s published unemployment rate and critically-compared it to how it would look if labor participation was kept constant, rather than fluctuated on a monthly basis. As the graph below from that report showed, unemployment rates would be significantly higher if participation was locked-in at a long-term, pre-recession average for the State (72.5%).

Click here for link to alternative posting of the ASPA post

This week, the impressive news site Business Insider featured a similar graph that compared “published” national unemployment with an alternative rate, utilizing a constant national labor participation rate (67%). In light of the substantial decline in labor participation incorporated into January 2011 unemployment statistics reported by the BLS last week, the graph below is a pretty telling indicator of how uncertain we are when it comes to the health of the market and the overall economy.

Graph developed by Albert Edwards of Societe Generale

The 67% participation rate reflects labor involvement in 2000, as well as its long-term average prior to the recession. From a comparative perspective, labor force participation in the early-1960’s was a little over 50%, reflecting societal and workplace norms and practices of the time.

While we do not know if a constant participation rate will be incorporated into long-term changes to the calculating and reporting of critical statistics, the alternative look does provide us with a chance to seriously evaluate and consider what is “real” when it comes to the state of our national, state and local economies.

Berner authors new book on practical use of statistics

Please take a look at the information below about Statistics for Public Administration: Practical Uses for Better Decision Making, a new book written by UNC School of Government’s Dr. Maureen Berner.

ICMA Members can order this book for the discounted price of $39 through the ICMA Bookstore.

This book can also be ordered from the School of Government Bookstore.

From ICMA Press:

“As a public administrator, you need to be able to analyze and evaluate policies, and understand analysis and evaluations done by others. This means having a solid working knowledge of how to apply statistics to the types of data used in local government so that you make good decisions.

Statistics for Public Administration: Practical Uses for Better Decision Making, a completely updated edition of Statistics Unraveled, focuses on demonstrating how statistics can help you do your job better, rather than on a mastery of statistics. The goal of this book is to make you, as a public administrator, an educated consumer of statistical information—and an effective translator of statistical information. You get the tools you need to design an analysis, gather, analyze and interpret data, present results, and make recommendations.

“This book is a hands-on, practical, and easy-to-understand introduction to the basic concepts and methods used to analyze data in local government. Vignettes at the beginning and end of each chapter illustrate the concepts through the dialogue of fictional local government employees as they attempt to identify and solve problems. Packed with tables, charts, figures, and review questions to reinforce the concepts, the author’s conversational tone and casual style will set you at ease and make you forget any math phobia you might have!”

About the Author

Maureen Berner first joined the School of Government in 1998, teaching program evaluation, statistics, and budgeting. Between 2003 and 2005 she directed efforts to provide new outreach activities for local governments based on the UNC model at the University of Northern Iowa. In 2005 she returned to teaching and writing for MPA students and public officials at the School of Government. Berner has been active in research and teaching in both academia and in government, and her publications include a variety of books, textbooks, and journal articles. She worked for four years with the Budget Issues Group at the U.S. General Accounting Office, including a rotation to the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee while serving as a Presidential Management Intern. Berner received an MPP from Georgetown University and PhD in public policy from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.

April Home Sales Driven by Tax Credit Deadline

Existing homes sales for April increased more than 15% from prior levels (annualized rate, 5.8 million units), activity in large part due to the end-of-month expiration of special recovery-focused homebuyer tax credits.  This morning’s latest report from the Wells Fargo Economics Group offers some observations on what April’s spike in activity could mean for the coming summer and beyond. Their conclusions include:

  • (April) was the fastest pace of sales for existing homes since November 2009—the month in which the tax credit was first set to expire. Sales are expected to slip in coming months as the effect from the tax credit goes away. The inventory of existing homes for sale grew in April lifting the month’s supply for all homes to 8.4 months. With supply growing and demand expected to fade, it is a bad picture for prices.
  • After housing prices fell precipitously in the recession, the tax credits helped put a floor under prices. But prices, in the shadow of the tax credits, seem poised for a decline.
  • Fading demand is evident in new mortgage applications, which fell 34.1 percent between the last week in April and the second week in May. The drop comes even as conventional 30-year mortgage rates fell below 5 percent during the same period.