The Week Ahead: Look below the surface of jobs report

March 1, 2014 

If statistics are like bikinis, revealing only what is interesting, the monthly government jobs data is the swimsuit cover-up. While the headlines out of the report capture a glance, the revealing information is inside.

The nation's unemployment rate has been dropping. The fall has been fueled by the slow creation of new jobs but also millions of Americans dropping out of the work force. They are frustrated by the lack of job opportunities, so they have given up looking. If they aren't actively looking for work, they aren't counted in the official unemployment rate allowing the rate to fall even with a paucity of new jobs. We will see if Friday's release of the February employment situation continues this trend.

More revealing is how long the average unemployed American goes between jobs. Before the Great Recession, if you lost your job you could expect to spend an average of four and a half months before you found work again. It's twice that today. The average unemployed American goes nine months between paychecks.

But no unemployed American is average. Each one has a story of the frustrations of searching for work, of surviving unemployment and hoping for a better tomorrow. Headlines, statistics and bikinis won't get them back in the pool of working Americans.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television. Follow him on Twitter@HudsonsView.

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