All kinds of numbers have been flying around comparing President Barack Obama’s jobs record vs. Gov. Rick Perry’s. The employment number most people know is the unemployment rate. The most recent state numbers, through June, put the Texas unemployment rate at 8.2 percent. The national unemployment rate that month was 9.2 percent, worse but not dramatically so. But that is the U-3 rate, and it does not include discouraged workers. Here is how the Labor Department describes things:
Discouraged workers (U-4, U-5, and U-6 measures) are persons who are not in the labor force, want and are available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They are not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the prior 4 weeks, for the specific reason that they believed no jobs were available for them.
Because those sorts of folks are excluding from the U-3 measure, the labor force participation rate has been falling as has the official size of the U.S. labor force. The rate was 63.9 percent in July and 64.1 percent in June, down from 65.7 percent in January of 2009. The Texas labor force participation rate was 65.6 percent in June, higher than the national average. That means there were more folks active seeking work, a reflection of the more positive job environment.
Bottom line: So let’s do an apples-apples comparison. What if the national labor force participation rate was as high as that in Texas? Well, the national U-3 unemployment rate would have been 11.3 percent in June, sharply higher than the 8.2 percent rate in Texas. And what if the Texas labor force participation rate had been as low as the national rate? Under that scenario, the Texas unemployment rate would have been 6.1 percent, also dramatically better. So either way you cut, the unemployment rate is much better in Texas than the national average. Score one for Rick Perry.
For a more wide-ranging analysis, please check out this post at Political Math.