Category Archives: economics
I suppose I keep posting these facts and figures on poverty, unemployment, hunger etc. because I am astounded by the general inability to do anything about it. There is some attention focused on poverty now that times are bad, but when times were ostensibly good, they weren’t that great for very many people. Counties in South Carolina have experienced continuous levels of unemployment as high as the current national average for decades. Naturally, these places are worse off in the current economy. You never heard much about Allendale or Union county three years ago from Jim Demint, for example, and you sure don’t hear much about them now.
Incidentally, Detroit is one place they aren’t afraid to discuss the “underemployment rate”, which is approaching 50%.
I found the reference to this ‘progress of unemployment’ graphic via Gawker of all places.
To see this chart as an animated graphic through October 2009, please see here: http://cohort11.americanobserver.net/latoyaegwuekwe/multimediafinal.html.
Ms Egwueke’s graphic is apparently based on the official unemployment rate, which as most people know is skewed to emphasize short term shifts in the rate of job losses, not in long term unemployment trends.
As I discussed in a previous post (the most popular on this site by far), the Bureau for Labor Statistics also collects data on persons in long term unemployment or involuntarily working part time. No unemployment statistic counts persons who have not held a job in a year and are not looking for work. There were 828,66o such persons in November 2009, according to a BLS database search of seasonally adjusted figures. These people are simply not in the labor force for a variety of reasons. According to data from an October 2009 BLS survey, the most common reason is a lack of work.
The Department of Labor tracks unemployment through separate survey and analysis of households and businesses.
Current Population Survey: http://www.census.gov/cps/ (the household survey)
The CPS is the primary source of information on the labor force characteristics of the U.S. population. The sample is scientifically selected to represent the civilian noninstitutional population. Respondents are interviewed to obtain information about the employment status of each member of the household 15 years of age and older. However, published data focus on those ages 16 and over. The sample provides estimates for the nation as a whole and serves as part of model-based estimates for individual states and other geographic areas.
Current Employment Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ces/
Each month the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program surveys about 150,000 businesses and government agencies, representing approximately 390,000 individual worksites, in order to provide detailed industry data on employment, hours, and earnings of workers on nonfarm payrolls.
The Wikipedia article on unemployment has a very interesting introduction to the problems of calculating unemployment rates, particularly the tendency in U. S. calculations to minimize the rate. This habit produces situations where a 2004 comparitive analysis of the US and France in which the U.S. comes out with an unemployment rate of 4.7% while the French rate is approximately 8% when the available pool of workers in both countries is about 84%. In other words, it contributes to a possibly erroneous perception that the U.S. outperforms Europe. Some explanation is in order.
For a discussion on the problems of calculating unemployment please see this comment and conversation with economist Dean Baker here: http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/beat_the_press_archive?month=01&year=2007&base_name=wall_street_journal_gets_germa&162#comment-1679545
That said, the official unemployment rate are still pretty startling for South Carolina. Here is a seasonally unadjusted comparison of the official unemployment rate by South Carolina county from February 2007 through October 2009 with changes, all increases. Some as much as 10%.
|South Carolina||February||October||32 Month|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://data.bls.gov/map/servlet/map.servlet.MapToolServlet?state=45&datatype=unemployment&year=2007&period=M02&survey=la&map=county&seasonal=u
We can also see that the counties on the bottom of the pile, with the worst unemployment are pretty much the same, even after the economic downturn:
|S.C. County||February||S.C. County||October|
|Worst Unemployment||2007||Worst Unemployment||2009|
|1||Marlboro County||13.5||%||Allendale County||22.2||%|
|2||Marion County||12.9||%||Chester County||21.6||%|
|3||Allendale County||11.4||%||Marlboro County||21||%|
|4||McCormick County||11.4||%||Marion County||20.7||%|
|5||Chester County||11.1||%||Union County||20.6||%|
|6||Union County||10.4||%||Barnwell County||19.4||%|
|7||Barnwell County||9.9||%||Lancaster County||19.2||%|
|8||Williamsburg County||9.9||%||Bamberg County||17.8||%|
|9||Lancaster County||9.7||%||Orangeburg County||17.8||%|
|10||Abbeville County||9.3||%||Dillon County||17.7||%|
However the changes do show that certain parts of the state have been more disrupted than others. Three of the counties which experienced the greatest percentage increase in the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate were York, Cherokee and Lancaster counties, all of which are in the greater Charlotte area. Might this be some effect of layoffs in the banking industry?
Its worth noting that none of these three made it into the bottom 10 by October 2009. There are bigger structural problems with unemployment in South Carolina’s counties than can be accounted for in the current recession.
|South Carolina Co.||32 Month|
I haven’t seen the unemployment figures for November yet, but lots of people are talking about them, including Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer. Henwood gives the breakdown below, and reminds us that the broadest government calculation of unemployment (including unwilling part-time workers and some long-term unemployed persons) puts the national rate at 17%!:
Aside from the unemployment rate, the stats I’ve been quoting came from the monthly survey of about 300,000 employers. The survey of 60,000 households, done about the same time as the employer survey, showed mixed results. The household survey painted a mixed picture. As I said, the unemployment rate fell 0.2 point, its biggest decline in four years. At 10%, it’s still very high, and it’s quite likely it will rise again in the coming months, but this is one of the better bits of economic news we’ve gotten in a long time. The broadest measure of unemployment, the so-called U-6 rate, which adds to the official measure those who are working part time though they’d prefer full time work and those who’ve given up the job search as hopeless, fell 0.3 point. It’s still an astronomical 17.2% [note: seasonally adjusted numbers], but at least it’s heading in the right direction.
Its probably possible to get the U-6 data by county, but damned if I can find it on the BLS website. You’re welcome to try and find it yourself. Henwood says the 17% u-6 rate is astronomical and he’s right. The BLS doesn’t let you graph u-6 info prior to 1994. From looking at a graph of the seasonally adjusted official rate, its easy to see that the only comparable level of unemployment over the last 39 years was in 1982.
Search of the week: yesterday someone found this site by searching “spd in the nest.”
On Monday, the US Department of Agriculture released a report Household Food Security in the United States, which uses polite language to describe hunger as an American condition.
According to the report, people experience food insecurity when “food intake … was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food”
Essentially, this means you are going hungry. More people went hungry in 2008 than ten years before. This is true nationally. South Carolinians not only fell below the national average, they also experienced more deterioration in food security than the nation as a whole. Looking at the states on this list, its easy to see the South is overrepresented and maybe easy to understand given its history of income inequality, rural poverty, recent textile-deindustrialization and racial discrimination. In light of that, it’s surprising to see states like Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and Oklahoma here in the top sixteen.
We’ll have to wait for a breakdown of the hunger data county-by-county to see if the hunger is concentrated in urban or rural areas, or spread more or less evenly around the states.
|State.All figures in %||Food insecurity ave 2006-08||Food insecurity ave 2003-05||Food insecurity ave 1996-98||Change 1996-98 to 2006-08||Change 2003-05 to 2006-08|
Full downloadable spreadsheet courtesy the UK Guardian.
Local SC media and government figures haven’t noticed the report yet, so far as I can tell. The State ran their wire service article, which made no specific reference to South Carolina. None of the other papers appeared to notice. When and if they do, expect them to emphasis the relative improvement between 2003-2005 and 2006-2008. Establishment South Carolina is well insulated, and so won’t be any more or less concerned than they were one or ten years ago. I would not expect any political discussion in this state on the relative worsening of hunger between 1996 and the present.
Ten years ago, 11% of South Carolinians occasionally went hungry, according to the report. Last year, an average of 13.1% of South Carolinians experienced food insecurity – to one degree or another – in the period of 2006 to 2008. That is actually an improvement over 2003 to 2005, when the average was 15.5%, third worst in the nation.
Going from third worst to sixteenth in hunger just prior to a depression is better than staying at second. But hunger is closely related to poverty and are structural issues that South Carolina’s political establishment habitually ignores. State government could not be less concerned with income disparity, racial inequality and general poverty among the population.
Food insecurity was actually at its highest in 2003-2005, when government and media were completely unconcerned with structural poverty. The relative drop in food insecurity experienced in 2006-2008 is after all still much higher than the level ten years previously. In light of the subsequent economic meltdown, hunger must be on the rise again.
Full USDA Report: Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 (66 page PDF file)
February 2009 Food Research and Action Center flyer on South Carolina Demographics, Poverty and Food Insecurity.