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WP Fact-Checker Twists ’91M Out Of Workforce’

From the Washington Post’s resident fact-twister:

Are there 91 million Americans ‘on the sidelines’ looking for work?

By Glenn Kessler | January 30, 2014

“The more than 91 million Americans who are out of the workforce and stuck on the sidelines deserve action on the part of the president and the Senate.” –Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), opinion article in The Tennessean, Jan. 28, 2014

Look at that quote. Ms Black did not claim all of those 91 million are currently looking for work, as Mr. Kessler’s highly misleading headline claims. But in fact there are more than 91 million people who are out of the workforce. It’s a figure even Kessler confirms. And yet, Mr. Kessler, being part of the Obama PR firm that is the mainstream media gives this statement three Pinocchios.

The Facts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does show that there are nearly 92 million Americans out of the workforce. But dig into the numbers and it is clear that it’s silly to say all of these people are “on the sidelines” and need action from the president and the Congress…

So there are "more than 91 million Americans who are out of the workforce." Isn’t that an important statistic in its own right?

This BLS document shows that the civilian noninstitutional population—essentially, people over the age of 16–is nearly 247 million. The civil labor force is 155 million, with a participation rate of 62.8 percent. So that leaves nearly 92 million “not in the labor force.” What does that mean?

Essentially, it means everyone above the age of 16 who is not working. The BLS breaks it down even further, and it quickly becomes clear that the vast majority of these people are retired or simply are not interested in working, such as stay-at-home parents…

6 million want a job now but cannot find one. 2.4 million did not actively search for work. 1.5 million did not search for work because they are students or left the job market for family reasons, illness or some other factor. 900,000 are discouraged and think no job is available.

Add that up, along with the 10.3 million who are unemployed, and then maybe you could say there are 21 million people who are “on the sidelines” of the job market. But the other 80 million people have permanently left the work force.

Kessler ignores the elephant in the room: There has to be some reason why so many people are suddenly no longer in the workforce. And you can bet a lot of people who are recently ‘retired’ would like to be working. A lot of people are ‘in school’ who would like to be working. A lot of ‘stay at home parents’ would like to be working. Or a lot of people ‘on disability’ who would like to be working. And, under better economic conditions, they would be working.

In fact, Rep. Black went on to say (as Kessler notes in passing): "“In fact, if the same percentage of people were in the labor force today as there were in 2009, our unemployment rate would be an astronomical 10.8 percent.” So she brought up the labor force figure by way of addressing the real unemployment rate. Which is a point she actually makes quite often.

The Pinocchio Test

Black may have not intended to mislead, but she certainly did so by using the 91 million figure in a wholly inappropriate manner. She did not only say that 91 million people were not in the labor force, but she said these people were “on the sidelines” and would benefit from government action. She cannot with a straight face argue that all of those people want a job; in fact, the vast majority are simply retired.

She didn’t argue that all those people want jobs. But a lot of them might.

She only barely escapes Four Pinocchios because this is a BLS figure.

Three Pinocchios

What a laugh. Ms. Black’s comment was far less ‘misleading’ than Kessler’s headline and ‘fact check.’ But then again, being in the media, he is a professional liar.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, January 30th, 2014. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “WP Fact-Checker Twists ’91M Out Of Workforce’”

  1. Calling Baghdad Bob, calling Baghdad Bob ..

  2. captstubby

    well put Steve.

  3. Right of the People

    91,000,000 seems a bit low but it’s a start.

  4. mr_bill

    How many of those 91,000,000 (roughly a third of the US population) don’t work because the government pays them enough that they don’t have to work? Yet those people still think they are entitled to demand the same things that the productive class works hard to earn.

  5. canary

    This is worrisome with inventory going on.




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