Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poster Household

A couple of days ago Greg Mankiw’s economics blog posted a chart showing the ratio of the population that is employed, from 2004 through the first quarter of 2012. You can see the plunge from early 2008 through the end of 2009. A normal recovery from a recession would, by definition, return to approximately the pre-plunge level (see my posts Parabolas and The Trampoline Effect). Clearly that has not happened.

EMRATIO chart found here
This is a better picture of the recession and unemployment rate than the doctored numbers the administration has been feeding to the sycophantic media. This picture is what we’re experiencing.
I know we can’t extrapolate accurately from one anecdote, but the Spherical Model household has been a good candidate for the poster family for the Obama economy (taking into account that the plunge began before Obama took over). My sense is that we’re not alone in our experiences (even though our numbers may be higher than most).
For part of 2011 we had nine people living in our household: eight adults and one toddler. Of the adults, three were employed: one well employed, one working two jobs but still seriously underemployed, and one part-time summer job. That left five unemployed job hunters—none of whom could get unemployment payments, nor appeared on government charts. That happens when you go from full-time student or full-time mom, or part-time worker who quit to move—all common situations.
But the government measures unemployment by how many are getting unemployment checks. If eligibility runs out, or they give up trying, or take time to try to develop an entrepreneurial business, these unemployed people stop being counted.
If they take a temporary low-paying job, because there are many good things that come from being a paid worker rather than an unemployed job seeker, they disappear from the statistics, but they don’t exactly exemplify recovery. We’re the poster household for this situation as well.
We went down to eight people (seven adults) at the end of summer when my daughter, Social Sphere, returned to college, where she had lined up another part-time job. By then three more family members started working part time at low pay, leaving only two technically unemployed (but not counted), but actually still six looking for better employment.
People who don’t expect government to solve their problems eventually improve their situation in just about any circumstances. My son Political Sphere will start law school in the fall, so, while the income situation will continue to be a problem not measured in the government statistics, we expect much better prospects for his family in about three years. And Mrs. Political Sphere, while underemployed, has been able to find some work recently, and the job should transfer after their move.
Economic Sphere entered the US Army and is halfway through bootcamp. He has a six-year commitment, or possibly a career, after which he has top secret clearance, another language, computer experience, and other experiences that should keep him employable.
So the household begins to empty out. Eventually we can call it recovery, although that will take years. Would we want four more years of this? No. I’d really prefer opportunities and prosperity for us and all our children. And I think I could also get used to quiet and a clean house—interrupted by frequent visits. Family continues to be the basic unit of society, and when family functions well, it is much better at leading to the positive ends we seek than government could ever be.

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