Content Tagged: unemployment

US Unemployment Rate

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October 7, 2015

CNBC has a great article on the US unemployment rate, with charts, entitled “What’s the real unemployment rate?”.  It offers a great look at the difference between the U3 rate (what we usually see when the media talks about unemployment) and the U6 rate, which takes into account people “marginally” attached to the US work force, as well as part time (as underemployed) workers.

One of the questions that comes up occasionally is some form of “have we really recovered from the Great Recession that much?” in terms of the “real” unemployment rate.  The Lincoln Journal-Star looks at this issue with an article “The Unemployment Rate Debate: 42% versus 5.1%”.  Presidential candidate Donald Trump recently stated that the real unemployment rate was 42%, while the Bureau of Labor & Statistics released September unemployment rates at 5.1%.  Which is it?

The Wall Street Journal has a similar article, stating that less than a third of unemployed people actually receive unemployment benefits, mostly because of the decrease in the labor force (or, more accurately, their departure from the labor force).  Unemployment is only determined by the number of people still looking for jobs, and does not take into account the worker who has just stopped looking.  This is a great article to look at that.

In the classroom, I used to have students look at all the different ways unemployment could be determined.  Usually, they got very frustrated and just decided that the numbers couldn’t be trusted.  This could be a great opportunity to have students take a look at the UFR lesson on numeracy, Lesson 5.4.  How are numbers used to make a point, and what difference does it make?


Friday Cartoon Roundup

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January 17, 2014


A lot of political cartoons have popped up in the last few days on the unemployment benefits fight going on in Congress right now.  I also found a few more on other topics just for kicks.  Remember that the October 13 blog has an outline to analyze political cartoons – or, take a look at what the Library of Congress suggests!

Bill Day, 2014


Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, 2014


R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2014


Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant, 2014


John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, 2014


Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2014


Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch, 2014


Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette, 2014


Priorities in National Spending

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January 14, 2014

The Senate is closer to coming to an agreement on the extension of unemployment benefit insurance.  According to the Chicago Tribune, nine Republican senators may break off from party lines to vote with Democrats to enable passage.   The proposal would extend unemployment for three months, with zero end affect on the budget with cuts elsewhere.  Although not popular with Senate Democrats or the President, it is the closest they have gotten to an agreement since the end of 2013, when benefits expired.

At the same time, Congress reached an agreement last night on a spending package to avoid another government shut down. The bill would provide funding for the national government through the fiscal year (Sept 30), with only a few things falling by the wayside.

The timing of these two events offers a great chance for discussion in the classroom on priorities in spending.  Why, potentially, would the budget agreement be voted on, but not unemployment benefits?  What political thought is seen behind either agreement?  What does it show about spending priorities – or does it really not show spending priorities at all?

There are three potential ties to the UFR curriculum, depending on where you are in the semester.  First, Balancing the Federal Budget 1.5 is a great way to bring up that question of priorities.  What are the trade-offs for the bill to avoid a federal shut-down?  What trade-offs do students witness with a potential unemployment benefit agreement?

Also, in the Civics portion of the curriculum, a view of Political Beliefs and Federal Budget (2.4) could be very helpful to help students understand how these agreements are made.  What real differences of opinion are we seeing in these agreements?  Put students in the role of a Democrat or Republican, and ask them to spend a little time researching either the potential budget agreement or the possible unemployment benefits agreement from their role’s point of view.

Or, is it all just rhetoric?  Civics lesson 2.5 offers the chance for students to learn about rhetoric – what is it, and how can we know what it is when we see it?

Finally, as always, some new political cartoons.  Remember that the October 13 blog has an outline to analyze political cartoons – or, take a look at what the Library of Congress suggests!


David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star, 2014


Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch, 2014


Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer, 2014


John Cole, The Times-Tribune, 2014


The Unemployment Dilemma

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January 7, 2014

Although the recession officially ended, the United States is faced with unemployment rates that are still seen as “too high” – and still have a large number of people receiving unemployment benefits.  Many of those benefits ran out at the end of 2013, and Congress and the President have been haggling ever since on what to do.

With the agreement of the Senate today to extend long term unemployment benefits, it could be another great opportunity to bring to your students the idea of balancing the budgets and policy priorities.  The full Congress still must approve, but President Obama has put his full support behind passing the bill.

UFR Lesson 1.5 is on Balancing the Federal Budget, but focusing in on Activity 3 would bring your students into the world of balancing the budget in the short term.  Have students analyze the political cartoon at the beginning of Activity 3, and compare them to the cartoons below.  What kind of policy priorities are being shown by Congress’ activity?

A few other resources:

Bill Day, 2013


Jimmy Marguiles, 2013




Is Another Stimulus Package Needed?

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March 2, 2012

Will the government need to provide another stimulus package? According to an article by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa for Reuters, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke alluded to a need for more federal money to help stimulate the economy. Although the economy shows slight signs of improving, Bernanke warned that this growth and the drop in unemployment seems odd. From the article:


“There’s still a bit of a contradiction between the improvement in the labor market and the speed of the overall recovery,” Bernanke said in a second day of testimony to Congress. “You’ve still got consumption spending growing relatively weakly.”


Bernanke told Congress that it must develop a long-term plan to help with the federal deficit America currently faces.  However, da Costa states that Bernanke also believes that a constricting of the fiscal agenda for 2013 could “derail the recovery.” Bernanke answered the claim that the American economy had been permanently damaged and would have to adjust interest rates accordingly. Bernanke stated that, “We do not see at this point that the very severe recession has permanently affected the growth potential of the U.S. economy.” He does believe, however, that unemployment rates have the potential to hurt the economy in the long-term. From the article: “Although we haven’t seen much sign of it yet, if that situation persists for much longer, then that will reduce the human capital that is part of our growth process going forward.”

Teachers can use this article to learn about the Federal Reserve and the individuals that comprise the organization. Prior to reading this article, students can visit the Federal Reserve website and learn about the Fed’s impact on the United States’ economy. Other helpful information would be to cover terms like inflation and deflation, found within the original article and commonly associated with economic policies. Teachers could also have a roundtable discussion with their students over the pros/cons of an economic stimulus that Bernanke hints at. Possible debate topics include: How much should the stimulus cost? What are some positives? Negatives? How will it be funded? What might a stimulus do for America’s economy short-term? Long-term? What will this do to the federal deficit?


September Shows Slight Rise in Employment

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October 11, 2011

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Bob Willis reported that America experienced a slight gain in employment and wages during the month of September. This increase, however, was not large enough to lower America’s current overall unemployment rate of 9.1. Economists believe that the economy is growing at a consistent, yet sluggish rate. From the article:

“It’s steady growth at a painfully slow pace,” said Michael Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado, who forecast a gain of 100,000 jobs. “The economy isn’t doing well, but it didn’t lose the momentum that the markets feared.”

Willis explains that Ford is looking to “in-source” jobs from Mexico and other countries, while Citigroup Inc., is creating jobs only for particular positions until the economy improves. According to Eric Green, chief market economist at TD Securities Inc., a continuous growth of 200,000 jobs a month for a complete year would lead to a drop of one percent in the nation’s unemployment rate. According to the article:

More Americans who would like a full-time job are settling for part-time work instead. They are counted in the underemployment rate, which increased to 16.5 percent, the highest this year, from 16.2 percent. The number of people working part-time for “economic reasons” jumped 444,000 to 9.3 million.

Teachers could use this article to discuss economic growth and its relationship with the national debt. Students could participate in a class discussion guided by the following questions: Are there more “Help Wanted” signs throughout the students’ community? In what ways do an increase in jobs benefit the entire community, not just an individual and his/her family? How might decreasing the unemployment rate affect the federal budget deficit and national debt?

Previous Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Blogs have examined the relationship between unemployment, the budget deficit, and the national debt.  Based on the issues raised in this article, students could discuss whether or not they support increasing government spending in an attempt to decrease unemployment.  How much (if any) additional debt is acceptable?  Are there guarantees that increased spending would achieve this goal?  Which lawmakers might support this idea?  Which might oppose it?  As the 2012 election cycle begins to gain momentum, students should be encouraged to examine the ways that politicians link issues of unemployment and the national debt.