Abelson: Unemployment Really 16.4 Percent

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 9:45 AM

By: Gene J. Koprowski

The unemployment rate in the U.S. may be as high as 16.4 percent when "discouraged" job seekers, and laid off independent contractors, who cannot apply for workers' benefits, are included, according to noted financial columnist Alan Abelson, writing in Barron's.

Payrolls last week slid by 345,000, and the "official" Obama administration tabulated unemployment rate soared.

"Mr. Obama, as it turns out, couldn't have picked a better week to be abroad, since his absence coincided with the release of the May jobs report," writes Abelson. "It showed a leap in the unemployment rate to 9.4 percent from 8.9 percent, the highest in a quarter century."

Abelson decries the Obama Labor Department numbers as "hokey," however, noting that they get a "lift from the wonderful birth/death model, which somehow summoned 220,000 jobs and did so, magically, out of thin air. The harsh truth is, using the regular payroll data, a rather formidable 14.5 million people are out of work.

“Moreover, if we look at the category we feel gives a more accurate picture — like the so-called U-6 tally — which includes people too discouraged to keep looking for a job and those working part-time because they can't find full-time slots, the unemployment rate shot up to a new high of 16.4 percent.

“That means something around 25 million folks are effectively on the dole. Ugh!"

The "impaired" economy, Abelson notes, is a long way from a real recovery, and the so-called stimulus passed Congress and called for by the White House has been anything but stimulative.

The economy is going to stay in a slump until housing recovers, and housing is not showing any real signs of expansion yet.

Even if there is a quick end to the recession, investors should expect the housing market to continue performing poorly for at least the remainder of this year, says Yale economist Robert Shiller.

“People won’t all change their views about homeownership at once,