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And (4), while we're on the subject.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 07:43:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U1 vs. U6?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 09:10:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But we make the same type of calculation in Europe. It is perfectly fine to try to estimate 'people looking for work'. A high labor participation rate does not have to be a sign of a healthy economy.

Of course we should always look at several indicators. e.g. both U1 and U6 and so on.

by rz on Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 09:12:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US graph provided appears to be U3, and even if you get to U6, the number of marginally attached workers in the US are grossly underreported, and even U6 does not account in any reasonable fashion for the legions of "self employed" workers who self-classify as such and so are treated as employed but in reality are marginally attached workers.
by rifek on Tue Apr 21st, 2015 at 10:29:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, presumably the chart is U3.  That's the metric most countries use for headline unemployment.

Again, on what grounds do you argue they're "grossly underreported"?

Also, you'll have to explain your rationale behind the self-employment stuff you're on about.

Not saying you're wrong on either count, necessarily, but 99 times out of 100, when people bitch about BLS's employment and inflation stats, they're spouting nonsense they read at ShadowStats or Zero Hedge or from some woo-peddling dipshit in the comments at Daily Kos.  Or they simply don't understand concepts like seasonal adjustment and chain-weighting and there being more than one measure for unemployment.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 21st, 2015 at 05:22:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the UK we call them "zero hours contracts." Or maybe "IR35" if the freelancer isn't freelance enough.

Basically they're on-demand labour with zero security and benefits.

Some percentage will count as genuine independent contract work work for a number of employers. But a larger percentage will be semi-employed temps hired on a per-project or as-needed basis.

Thus not quite in the same realm as Graeber's bullshit jobs, but certainly not employed in the sense of  traditional economic definitions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 at 05:09:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's some of that here, primarily in service provision for things like cable installation, electronics repair with retailers, and material delivery in construction (varies quite a bit by locality).  And professional wrestling strangely (I remember that being a big issue back when the WWF executive ran for Senate in Connecticut a few years back).  Financial planning jobs can be that way too.

Those jobs are generally shit, although the pay is a bit better than working part-time at the grocery store or something.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 at 05:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Insufficiently analytical for your standards, I'm afraid, but what I see in my law practice, and what I hear from other attorneys around the country, who used to get paychecks, don't get paychecks anymore, list themselves as self-employed because putting "unemployed" in your sales pitch just doesn't cut it, but are in reality just scraping by on sporadic income.

My best source on this is Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.  Lots of self-employed people need them but can't qualify because their businesses don't generate enough income.  If they do happen to have enough income at the moment to get a plan approved, they can't keep it going for the 3-5 years required.  None of this information is being collected even anecdotally, let alone systematically.  The Chapter 13 success rate is a joke, and DOJ is doing no real research on the reasons; everything is just the "anecdotal" stories of those of us in the trenches.

This seems to be the pattern for data collection on the self-employed.  There is nothing close to the systematic data collection in place concerning wage earners and benefits recipients.  Even when data are collected, they seem to go nowhere.  A self-employed person applying for benefits has to jump through far more hoops far more frequently (so much so that a significant number either give up or are dropped, which creates its own data accuracy problem), yet the data collected seem to go nowhere other than some warehouse such as at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Consequently, I am compelled to conclude the status of the self-employed is not adequately accounted for in the statistics.  I'm also inclined to think this is not exactly accidental; if you don't bother collecting data on a problem, you can pretend it doesn't exist.

by rifek on Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 at 05:59:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, busy week, so just getting to this.

...[W]hat I see in my law practice, and what I hear from other attorneys around the country, who used to get paychecks, don't get paychecks anymore, list themselves as self-employed because putting "unemployed" in your sales pitch just doesn't cut it, but are in reality just scraping by on sporadic income.

I don't think attorneys are a great gauge of the experience of the typical worker anywhere, let alone a basis for compiling national statistics and producing reports on the experience of the typical worker (which is the aim of the headline numbers).  

Most workers aren't going to have heard the sociological and business studies on how it's better to be employed in some capacity -- part-time, self-employed, whatever -- than to be unemployed.  Even fewer would be able to put together a good explanation for such "self-employment" in a job interview.  Most are going to lose their jobs, sign up for unemployment comp and look for new jobs.

The ability to list oneself that way in any credible way in an interview is nothing if not a "first-world problem," as the kids on Twitter like to say.

It's generally foolish -- and really quite arrogant (in a way that, I think I can say with some credibility, is ludicrously common with lawyers) -- to assume that one of the 10,000 or so people in these stats agencies hasn't thought of the brilliant insight some lawyer has thought about.  People talk about this stuff all the time.  I know.  I've done it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Apr 27th, 2015 at 07:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, but it's not just about lawyers. As you note, the bulk of the workforce, and of unemployed people, is composed of salaried workers. But there is an enormous number of people in a very large number of "tertiary" or "service" lines of work who can credibly be either salaried or self-employed. And it is distressingly common to run into, for example, IT contractors in France who disguise large time-gaps in their CV through declared self-(un)employment.

Sure, the statistics functionaries will have thought of this. Doesn't mean they measure it, because it's hard to measure accurately.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Apr 28th, 2015 at 08:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess Drew's key point is
The ability to list oneself that way in any credible way in an interview is nothing if not a "first-world problem," as the kids on Twitter like to say.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 28th, 2015 at 09:03:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would note in my defense, since I'm tired of wasting my time responding to Drew, that I and most of the attorneys I'm in contact with around the country, do bankruptcies and small business reorganizations, and if you put us all together, we do thousands.  Actually a fairly reasonable sample size for misery.  We see a lot of faux self-employment and rampant underemployment.  As for what data agencies do and do not collect, having done my time in government service, I can say this: Agencies see, at most, what they have a legislative mandate to see.  If someone can show me how the growing collection of economic fringe dwellers is being accurately included in the stats, I'd be more than happy to look at it.  But I really don't think it is.
by rifek on Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 09:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to tire you and waste your time, but:

I and most of the attorneys I'm in contact with around the country, do bankruptcies and small business reorganizations, and if you put us all together, we do thousands.  Actually a fairly reasonable sample size for misery.

That's not how sampling works.  And:

If someone can show me how the growing collection of economic fringe dwellers is being accurately included in the stats, I'd be more than happy to look at it.

You haven't established the premise here of a "growing fringe" to be "accurately included in the stats".

This is a bit more granular than what I asked Chris for a while back on QE and oil, but much the same principle.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 05:50:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no idea what it is in the US, but it is certainly a strong phenomenon in the UK where

-People are pushed towards what I called self-unemployment from all sides, be it companies that more readily hire contractors, the fact that you don't even need to set up a company to do that (you would then simply report earnings as a sole trader -yes that then gives you unlimited liability but the client/employer won't mind), that slight tweaks to the benefit system have meant that it tends to be fiscally better for the first 12 months at least (and there was a sudden jump of about a million alleged self-employed in the quarter that such a measure was introduced) for whoever expects to log even a paltry number of hours

-Jobseeker allowance is so very near to zero

-They make sure you have to jump through hoops to get that very near to zero, to the point where it may not make economic sense. Some people have to spend tens of hours at the job centre that they could use for doing productive stuff such as fixing their house, looking after their kids...

And yes, it does not look great to put unemployed on your resume and, since it costs nothing to claim you were acting as a sole trader, many people did it. A one million boost in the data (while the hours worked did not hugely increase) is not negligible.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri May 1st, 2015 at 05:12:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The current stats themselves point to a growing fringe, and the problematic status of data collection for that fringe seems reasonably clear. Whether or not the growing fringe is growing faster than already indicated in current statistics is evidently not a question that can be answered using current statistics.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun May 10th, 2015 at 04:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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