Unemployment Rate At 4.9 Percent: Do The Numbers Speak Truth On The Job Market?

The U.S. unemployment rate is now 4.9, the lowest since February 2008, and wages have also risen. The Labor Department reported that 151,000 jobs were added in January, a slightly lower increase than in December, which made 2015 one of the best years for job creation since the 1990s.

President Barack Obama spoke on the economy in the White House briefing room in an effort to dispel negative reports that are being made by GOP presidential candidates, per CNN.

“The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. I know that’s still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches as their doom and despair tour plays in New Hampshire. I guess you cannot please everybody.”

Obama compared himself to the Golden State Warriors’ assistant coach Luke Walton, who led the NBA team to victory after serving as interim coach.

“You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, racked up a great record. And you don’t get enough credit.”

After the team and the audience laughed, Obama said, “I can’t imagine how that feels.”

As Obama’s second term in the White House comes to an end, he, like all presidents, is concerned about his legacy and how history will judge him. Of course, judgment is not solely based on a leader’s domestic policy but relations with foreign countries and how they progress or regress. How history analyzes the highs and lows of a presidency often evolves over time, but the assessment by the American people is often swift.

The numbers the Labor Department released look good on paper, but the question arises as to what those numbers mean for the average American and how the formerly unemployed and underemployed have fared post-recession. There are those who believe that the economy is on an upward swing and others who say it has not fully recovered.

Economists explain the unemployment rate by analyzing the numbers. The main unemployment number, known as the “U-3,” is the one that’s widely reported, but there is another significant number known as “U-6,” which gives detail and insight on what’s actually occurring in the civilian workforce, noted CNBC. The rate of unemployment reached an overall high in 2008 and has gradually lowered over time.

The U-3 rate includes all unemployed workers as part of the labor force, but the U-6 rate includes the unemployed, marginally employed, and those employed part-time. Individuals who want full-time employment but cannot find it are underemployed, likewise are those who accepted jobs for which they are overqualified, for lack of better offers. The labor participation is also lower, partly due to retiring workers. According to economists, if these factors are weighed in, the U-6 rate remains unchanged from 9.9 percent in January. This means the U-6 rate is down by 1.4 percentage points over the last year, while the U-3 rate dropped by 0.8 percentage points, added CNBC.

Obama himself said the rate of unemployment doesn’t account for middle-aged workers (late 40s to early 50s) who have not participated in the job market. He said they may need to update their skills or seek training before becoming employable. Another group he mentioned are younger unskilled workers who may not have a high school diploma. Others that aren’t included, according to the POTUS, are young people who were not established in the job market when the recession started. All may need additional skills before embarking on a job search.

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty]