Unemployment datapoints of the day

By Felix Salmon
January 19, 2011
Gallup global employment data are out, and there's a huge amount of meat here, including this unemployment map:

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The Gallup global employment data are out, and there’s a huge amount of meat here, including this unemployment map:

unemp.tiff

US unemployment, on this measure, is in the double-digit range — significantly above the global average of 7%. Meanwhile, Germany, with a much stronger social safety net, has unemployment of less than 5%. (Remember, these aren’t official national statistics, they’re Gallup’s attempt to apply the same yardstick to all countries.)

Zoom in on Europe, and the you can see where all the current tensions are coming from, especially in the stark contrast between Germany and Spain, and in general the difference between a relatively prosperous north and a struggling south which is also much closer to the hardships of north Africa.

yurp.tiff

David Leonhardt has a smart take on this data: essentially, the US is doing well by its corporates and its full-time employees (Caroline Baum notes that fourth-quarter withheld income tax receipts rose 17 percent from a year earlier), and is letting the unemployed fall through the cracks; Europe and Canada, by contrast, have attempted to spread the pain more widely.

I fear, however, that even if the US adopts the kind of job-boosting policies Leonhardt is extolling, ultimately Tyler Cowen and Jayme Lemke are right, and it’s going to take years of hard-won economic growth before we make a significant dent in the US unemployment rate. In the interim, it’s important for society to look after the unhappy minority which has found itself to all intents and purposes unemployable. When the median period of unemployment exceeds the maximum duration of unemployment checks, that’s a sign of a country which has simply given up on its neediest.

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