Re: Jobs, wealth, and change -- more reasons for optimism

Subject: Re: Jobs, wealth, and change -- more reasons for optimism
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 15:08:10 -0800

This is another example of using statistics selectively to support an
argument. But it fails in painting a complete picture, so it fails in
communicaating an accurate picture.

According to the quoted figures, the number of people employed in the U.S.
in the past 23 years, from 1980 to 2003, has risen from 91 million to 130
million. What's missing? How about (a) the total number of people in the
U.S. during those same years and (b) the total number of people who are
capable of working during those years. Without knowing these numbers, the
quotes numbers are meaningless.

How? Well, here's a simplified example: say the employment numbers were 80
and 100, respectively (to make the math easier). Let's say the total
population numbers were 150 and 280, and the working-capable numbers were 90
and 130.

This gives the following results:

Employment in 1980 as a percentage of the total population: 80/150 = 53.5%
Employment in 1980 as a percentage of the working-capable population: 80/90
= 88.9%

Employment in 2003 as a percentage of the total population: 100/280 = 35.7%
Employment in 2003 as a percentage of the working-capable population: =
100/130 = 76.9%

In this case, you could tout that 20 more jobs were created, and even throw
in the increase in productivity. What's left unsaid is that far, far more
people are not working, both in the overall population (which means more
drains on the retirement, the education, and the disability systems) and in
the working-capable population (which means more drain on the unemployment
system). How much of that productivity gain is offset here?

Pundits and editorial writers can get away with this because the vast
majority of the population is uneducated about subjects such as statistics.
The exposed numbers look good, but the hidden numbers may result in a very
different story.

And this is from but one statistics (an engineering statistics) class way
back when.

Where is the rest of the story, and why as _technical_ communicators don't
we see that part of this story is missing? My optimism suffers when I see
that people accept offered information without question.

Chuck Martin

P.S. Links that go to sites that require payment or registration should be
identified as such in thei source.

"Richard G. Combs" <richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com> wrote in message
news:219925 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> The other day, in response to some posts about outsourcing, I wrote at
> length about how such changes in resource allocation make us all better
> I said that the money saved by outsourcing would:

> A recent NY Times op-ed echoes and reinforces my point. Read the whole
> at:
> Here's an excerpt:
> ==========================================================================
> Since 1980, Americans have filed 106 million initial claims for
> benefits, each representing a lost job. Facing unemployment and rebuilding
> life can be hard on families, but the United States today is better off
> allowing it to happen. Even with the net decline in jobs over the past
> years, during the past decade total United States employment has risen to
> 130 million from 91 million since 1980, a net gain of nearly 40 million
> jobs. Productivity, measured by output per worker, increased a staggering
> 56.2 percent.
> Some people tend to forget this. The almost daily drumbeat of reports and
> "expert commentary" about a so-called jobless recovery prompts the
> "What's gone wrong with the labor market?"

> The surprising answer: nothing.
> Job growth will come, as it always has in the past. The economy,
> is as busy as ever in shifting labor from one use to another to make the
> country richer and more productive.
> ==========================================================================



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