Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Monday, December 12, 2011

What’s the Real Unemployment Rate?

Several liberal sites are whaling away on Fox for a chart posted on TV today showing the unemployment rate. The chart looks like this:
image

The concern is that, while the numbers are accurate, the graphic indicates that the current unemployment level of 8.6% is roughly the same or higher than 9%.

Unfortunately, none of the sites have any information about the information input into the chart, or the context surrounding it, but I have to agree; on the face of it, the chart looks pretty bad.

But it did get me to thinking. While the administration claims that unemployment has declined sharply over the past few months, I really don't see much change in my day to day life. I still have my job, but the folks I know who don't have a job are still struggling to find one. So I decided to take a closer look at the numbers and see what is really going on.

First, I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to pull some raw data. I went to the Current Population Survey page and found the following.
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% in Nov 2011
Change in Unemployment Level: -594,000 in Nov 2011
Change in Employment Level: +278,000 in Nov 2011
Change in Civilian Labor Force Level: -315,000 in Nov 2011
Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate: 64.0% in Nov 2011
Employment-Population Ratio:58.5% in Nov 2011

I noticed a couple of things right off. First, while there were 594,000 people removed from the jobless ranks, only 278,000 new jobs were created, meaning that 315,000 people left the workforce completely, and were no longer counted in the unemployment rate.

That's 10,000 people a day who are no longer part of the work force. Let's put that into perspective. The Knoxville Metro area has a labor force of roughly 300,000 people. That's everyone working in Knox, Anderson, Bount, Union, and Loudon Counties. Do we really think that enough working people to fill the five counties listed retired in one month?

Okay, that just doesn't sound right to me so I dug deeper.

I pulled a chart showing the labor force participation rate:

Series Id: LNU01300000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over

image

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 66.8 66.8 67.0 66.7 66.6 67.2 67.4 66.8 66.6 66.7 66.6 66.6 66.8
2002 66.2 66.6 66.6 66.4 66.5 67.1 67.2 66.8 66.6 66.6 66.3 66.2 66.6
2003 66.1 66.2 66.2 66.2 66.2 67.0 66.8 66.3 65.9 66.1 66.1 65.8 66.2
2004 65.7 65.7 65.8 65.7 65.8 66.5 66.8 66.2 65.7 66.0 66.1 65.8 66.0
2005 65.4 65.6 65.6 65.8 66.0 66.5 66.8 66.5 66.1 66.2 66.1 65.9 66.0
2006 65.5 65.7 65.8 65.8 66.0 66.7 66.9 66.5 66.1 66.4 66.4 66.3 66.2
2007 65.9 65.8 65.9 65.7 65.8 66.6 66.8 66.1 66.0 66.0 66.1 65.9 66.0
2008 65.7 65.5 65.7 65.7 66.0 66.6 66.8 66.4 65.9 66.1 65.8 65.7 66.0
2009 65.4 65.5 65.4 65.4 65.5 66.2 66.2 65.6 65.0 64.9 64.9 64.4 65.4
2010 64.6 64.6 64.8 64.9 64.8 65.1 65.3 65.0 64.6 64.4 64.4 64.1 64.7
2011 63.9 63.9 64.0 63.9 64.1 64.5 64.6 64.3 64.2 64.1 63.9

The chart shows that the participation rate declined after 9/11, began to rebound in 2006, then crashed hard in 2008. The current average of 64.1% is the lowest since 1982 and 1983.

Now, this could represent a population change, so the next thing I looked at was the size of the employed population as compared to total population.


Series Id: LNU02300000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Employment-Population Ratio
Labor force status: Employment-population ratio
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over

image

Download:
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 63.7 63.8 64.0 63.9 63.9 64.1 64.2 63.5 63.4 63.4 63.1 63.0 63.7
2002 62.0 62.5 62.5 62.6 62.9 63.1 63.2 63.0 63.0 63.0 62.5 62.4 62.7
2003 61.8 62.0 62.1 62.3 62.3 62.7 62.6 62.4 62.1 62.4 62.4 62.3 62.3
2004 61.6 61.8 61.9 62.1 62.3 62.7 63.0 62.7 62.4 62.6 62.6 62.4 62.3
2005 61.7 61.8 62.0 62.5 62.7 63.1 63.4 63.2 62.9 63.2 62.9 62.8 62.7
2006 62.2 62.3 62.6 62.8 63.1 63.5 63.6 63.4 63.2 63.6 63.5 63.5 63.1
2007 62.6 62.6 62.9 62.8 63.0 63.4 63.5 63.0 63.0 63.1 63.2 62.8 63.0
2008 62.2 62.1 62.3 62.6 62.5 62.8 62.8 62.3 62.0 62.0 61.6 61.0 62.2
2009 59.8 59.6 59.5 59.8 59.6 59.8 59.8 59.3 58.9 58.8 58.8 58.2 59.3
2010 57.8 57.9 58.2 58.7 58.7 58.9 58.9 58.8 58.6 58.6 58.4 58.3 58.5
2011 57.6 57.8 58.1 58.4 58.5 58.5 58.6 58.5 58.5 58.7 58.7

Here, we see that the percentage of people with jobs dropped precipitously in July 2008 as compared to the total population, indicating that millions of jobs just disappeared, and so far, have not returned. The people doing those jobs are still unemployed, but apparently, they've been unemployed for so long that they just don't count any more.

That 8.6% isn't looking as good now. I mean, it looks good for Obama, but if you are one of the folks who are still unemployed, but not counted, well, the outlook is pretty grim.

For fun, let's see what happens if we figure the unemployment rate based on the number of people actually out of work?

The first thing we have to do is look at the size of the labor force. Again, the BLS is very helpful:
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Series Id: LNU01000000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Unadj) Civilian Labor Force Level
Labor force status: Civilian labor force
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over

image

Download:
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2001 142828 143100 143664 143026 143023 144553 145097 143826 143601 144060 143987 144042 143734
2002 143228 144266 144334 144158 144527 145940 146189 145565 145167 145320 144854 144807 144863
2003 145301(1) 145693 145801 145925 146067 148117 147822 146967 146166 146787 146969 146501 146510
2004 146068(1) 146154 146525 146260 146659 148478 149217 148166 147186 147978 148246 147877 147401
2005 147125(1) 147649 147745 148274 148878 150327 151122 150469 149838 150304 150239 149874 149320
2006 149090(1) 149686 150027 150209 150696 152557 153208 152465 151635 152397 152590 152571 151428
2007 151924(1) 151879 152236 151829 152350 154252 154871 153493 153400 153516 154035 153705 153124
2008 152828(1) 152503 153135 153208 154003 155582 156300 155387 154509 155012 154624 154349 154287
2009 153445(1) 153804 153728 153834 154336 155921 156255 154897 153617 153635 153539 152693 154142
2010 152957(1) 153194 153660 153911 153866 154767 155270 154678 153854 153652 153698 153156 153889
2011 152536(1) 152635 153022 152898 153449 154538 154812 154344 154022 154088 153683

Wow. Our labor force is actually contracting! This surprised me so I expanded the range of the data to see if we had ever seen anything like this, a two year decline in the size of the labor force.

image

And the answer is no.

Think about that for a minute folks. Since 1948, the size of our work force has steadily increased yet for the last two years, it suddenly stopped growing and started contracting.

There are two potential explanations for this. The first is that our population is actually shrinking. The US Census says no. The second is that somebody is cooking the books.

Regardless of the explanation, we need to determine what the size of the labor force should be if we were following historical trends. Regression analysis (I love excel!) using data from January1978 though January 2008 shows that on average, the labor force should increase in size at an annual rate of 1.7 million workers. Applying that to the 2008 data indicates that the US labor force should actually be around 158 million people. BLS statistics show us at 152.5 million, 300,000 fewer than in 2008.

That's 5.5 million people missing from the work force. 5.5 million people that are not being counted in our unemployment statistics.

So, the BLS says that 12.6 million are unemployed. which results in an unemployment rate of 8.6% if you accept their numbers, i.e., that for the first time in over 60 years, our workforce has shrunk instead of grown. If you apply the historical average, then we have roughly 18 million people out of work, for a real unemployment rate of 12.3%

Yeah, I know. This is hypothetical, based on an inference from historical data. I haven't proven that somebody is cooking the books, but look at that last chart again. 60 years of nearly perfectly linear growth that suddenly stops and actually contracts in 2009. We've been through recessions before. We've been through market crashes and wars and civil unrest. But in over 60 years, we've never seen our work force dip over a two year period like we have in these numbers.

People keep on having babies, and they keep growing up. People continue to immigrate to the US, and our work force continues to grow. The employment to population ratio proves that we haven't stopped growing. But somehow, we're not adding workers to the labor force.

Folks, look at the numbers for yourself. See if what you are being told makes sense to you when you look at those numbers. Don't believe it because I say so; take a look for yourself. The information is right there.



Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Baumgartner’s Career Trajectory

The following is a brief timeline on Richard Baumgartner and his, shall we say, unusual career path.

In 1990, he ran for Circuit Court judge and lost.

In 1992, then District Attorney General Ed Dossett dies when he was supposedly trampled by cows. With an amount of morphine in his blood twice the normal values for dealing with pain. Gov Ned McWherter appoints Randy Nichols as the new D.A, and then in a surprise move, taps Baumgartner to fill Nichols' former spot as Criminal Court judge.

Dossett's widow, Reynella Dossett marries David Leath.

In 2003, she shoots him in the back of the head.

In 2007, Randy Nichols, citing new evidence and supported by a new Knox County Medical Examiner, seeks to exhume Ed Dossett's body in order to prove that he was murdered by his wife, who has now been charged with murdering her second husband.

In 2008, Baumgartner blocks the exhumation. A grand Jury indicts Dossett Leath for the murder of her first husband.

In 2009, with Baumgartner presiding, Reynella's first trial for the murder of her second husband results in a hung jury.

In 2009, Baumgartner blocks a second request for exhumation.

In 2010, Dossett Leath is found guilty in her second trial, also presided over by Baumgartner. She is sentenced to life in prison.

In 2010, Prosecuters drop the charges against Dossett Leath regarding the death of Ed Dossett.

In 2011, Baumgartner strikes a deal to plead guilty to one charge of official misconduct, thereby insulating himself from the consequences of a decade of drug and alcohol abuse that will cost the county millions of dollars.

Ironic, how Baumgartner's career closely parallels Dossett Leath's fortunes. They both lost everything within a few months of each other.





Posted by Rich
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From the TBI File: Why Baumgartner had Pancreatitis

Okay, so the News Sentinel has reported that Baumgartner first started taking pain pills when they were prescribed for him to deal with a chronic case of pancreatitis. What the KNS didn't tell you was the cause of Baumgartner's pancreatitis.

On page 37 of the redacted TBI report, the first page of IR 148, Dr. Dean Conley tells the TBI that the pancreatitis was due to alcohol abuse.

Apparently, the junkie got his start as a drunk. Dr. Conley went on to say that Baumgartner's pancreatitis was usually under control, as long as he remained sober, but would flare up into an acute case whenever he drank.

This brings a few more questions to mind. How often did Baumgartner sit in court while drunk? Did drinking pay a part in his most recent flare up? How bad was his alcohol problem before he turned to pills? And one more time, how the heck was he able to stay an active, prominent judge while feeding not one but two addictions?

He wrecked his pancreas by drinking before he wrecked his life with pills and the News Sentinel doesn't think that his drinking is an important part of the story? Really?

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 05, 2011

Hell Freezes Over

Mr. Neal, the long time proprietor of KnoxViews, has an equally long history of disagreeing with me on virtually everything under the sun. In fact, he would probably take issue with that statement just for consistency's sake.

I know I would.

But today, we stand united in disgust at the incompetence and blatant propaganda being spun out by the Knoxville News Sentinel, chiefly the post by publisher Jack McElroy.
Mr. Neal's take:
Not only is the KNS exploiting their tabloid coverage of the trials, now the KNS editor is saying the KNS and Jamie Satterfield deserve credit for breaking the news that Baumgartner was an impaired drug addict presiding over the most sensational murder trial in recent history.

Seriously? Sounds like a major ass-covering operation to me. Shame on the KNS for blowing a huge story, and for helping put the victim's families through hell once again.


You know something? When you've done something so outrageously bad that even people as far apart as Mr. Neal and I can agree, you might seriously want to reconsider what you're doing because if your business model depends on the good will of the people, and you're alienating people from all sides, well, let's just say your subscription base will evaporate faster than ice cream on a hot sidewalk.


Posted by Rich
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Mr McElroy Speaks…Says Nothing

Coincidentally, while I was writing the last post, Jack McElroy was also writing on his blog, The Up Front Page. He was reacting to the questions my wife and I, as well as others, are asking, namely, why didn't the KNS know about this a long time ago? And if they did, why didn't they publish?

In his answer, he reposted the question from Lissa, as well as Satterfield's response during the chat, then added the following:

When Satterfield broke the news that the TBI was investigating Baumgartner, she reported that he had appeared disoriented at the end of the Coleman trial. That report apparently triggered a subpoena for her testimony at the hearing over the motion for new trials in the Christian-Newsom case. The subpoena was waived after attorneys agreed that any testimony she gave would match what she reported in the story.

As it turned out, there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench.


That's the best he could do? Once again pointing his finger at the other people who should have done something, all the while refusing to notice that he and his staff also did nothing?

The phrase that really gets me is the last one, "...there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench." Is it too much to expect from our newspaper that its reporters occasionally get their butts up off the bench and actually do some real investigating? Or is that too hopelessly old fashioned?

Let's be clear; the newspaper does not have a responsibility to see that justice is done. That's the domain of the justice system. But the newspaper does have a responsibility to report the news, and to look for corruption in government before it becomes blindingly obvious and prohibitively expensive. And for future reference, a judge passing out during the delivery of a verdict in a major trial qualifies as blindingly obvious.

I left a comment on Mr. McElroy's post, a slight reworking of the tail end of my last post. I'll put it here just in case it doesn't make it through moderation:

Mr. McElroy, I appreciate that you are willing to address this issue openly, but your answer is lacking. While it is true that many people knew about Mr. Baumgartner's drug problem, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the News Sentinel should also have known.

Your paper is supposed to be the watchdog of the people. One of your highest functions, as you wrote so eloquently in your blog about the subpoena process, is to shine the light on local government, and to hold them accountable. The TBI report makes it very clear that many people in city and county government were aware of Baumgartner's drug use. It is just as clear that a fairly wide array of folks outside of the government knew as well; his doctor, his suppliers, his pharmacists, etc. Others were aware of how he was bending/breaking laws to protect his dealers, and other associates. In fact, what the TBI file makes most clear is that it appears that the only people who didn't know what was going on were employed by the News Sentinel.

So, how did your paper fail so badly at its primary function? How can so many people know about a prominent judge who is also a junkie, and your paper miss the story entirely? Why is it that you needed the TBI to release its investigation in order to find out what was going on when you had one of your senior reporters right there the whole time? More importantly, what steps are you taking to improve your performance?

On the other hand, if you believe that the KNS did a good job, then tell us why. How is it that you can miss criminal activity by a prominent judge that extends over a period of years and still claim that the KNS is doing its job?

Or to put it another way, what good is a newspaper that fails to find out and report the news?

Posted by Rich Hailey at December 5, 2011 7:51 PM


Posted by Rich
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Jaime Satterfield Speaks and A Question for Jack McElroy

Jaime Satterfield participated in a chat with KNS readers over the lunch hour today to answer questions about the Baumgartner case. I was working and unable to participate, but Lissa was able to ask a couple of questions. The chat transcript is here, but I've excerpted a couple of key comments below, because it appears she has answered the question in my last post.

Jamie Satterfield:
Judge Blackwood ruled retrials are necessary for two reasons: Baumgartner was too wasted to act in his role as 13th juror and the trials were unconstitutionally flawed because of the crimes he was committing during those trials
Jamie Satterfield:
We all noticed his behavior on the final day of Vanessa Coleman's trial. I confronted him afterward and he said he had health issues and was taking time off, which he did. When he returned, he initially seemed better
Jamie Satterfield:
It's not his health issues that were the problem. He was committing crimes during these trials and taking 10 to 30 pills a day during these trials


So Satterfield is saying that she was closely watching the judge and the trial at a time when he was taking 10-30 pills a day, and she only noticed anything strange during the last day of the trial when he nearly passed out at the bench. Apparently, observation is not her strong suit.

Another question from the chat asked about the affiliation of the judges involved. Her answer:
Jamie Satterfield:
Baumgartner is a democrat first appointed by gov. mcwherter and later elected by Knox Countians. Blackwood is retired and serves on special cases at the request of the supreme court. Schmutzer, a republican, also is retired but serves as special prosecutor at request of DA's conference. Don't know blackwood's politics. He's pretty darn conservative (Emphasis mine)


Ummm....yeah. 'He's a conservative but I don't know his politics.' Ok, maybe she just doesn't want to make assumptions. But then there's this:
Comment From Hailey
JB sat on the bench under the influence, by his own admittance, for nearly three years. How is it that NO ONE noticed that he was impaired during that time? Not the DA, defense counsel, witnesses, jury members, observers, the media .... No one saw anything out of line???
12:23

Jamie Satterfield:
Rich, all I can speak for is myself. What I saw was a man who on most days functioned fine but who on occassion seemed sick and tired. He had an explanation for that. It is documented that he suffered pancreatitis. He used his health as an excuse

As I said earlier, I didn't participate in the chat; Lissa did. Ms Satterfield apparently assumed it was me, possibly because I've questioned the quality of her coverage before, mostly on the Henry Granju case.

Putting everything together, what Ms Satterfield has said is that she accepted without question the excuses given to her by the judge for a continued pattern of poor performance in the courtroom and never once showed any curiosity about whether or not he was telling the truth.

In another part of the chat, she laments that nobody came to her with reports of the judge's behavior. I always thought that reporters were supposed to go out and find the stories, not wait for them to be dropped in their laps. She was in the courtroom day after day. She saw the judge's erratic behavior first hand and it never even occurred to her to investigate it.

Last post, I asked whether it was incompetence or corruption that kept this story from breaking years ago, before the tax payers were placed on the hook for the retrial of potentially thousands of cases. Today, according to Ms. Satterfield, the question has been answered and I guess we should all be grateful that it wasn't corruption.

And now I think the word 'incompetence' was too strong. Complacency, rather than incompetence, seems more applicable to this story. Ms. Satterfield, once engaged, does do a pretty good job at reporting the facts. It seems that sometimes, it's just difficult for her to get engaged. Ms. Satterfield saw what she expected to see, heard what she expected to hear, and never looked beyond the surface. And that's fine for most occupations, but a reporter is supposed to look deeper, isn't she? Aren't reporters supposed to ask the tough questions, to dig for the truth? When did it become the norm for reporters to accept the easy excuse?

My question now is not for Ms. Satterfield; she's given us her answers. She's said that she can sit in a courtroom day after day with a judge who was taking 10-30 prescription pain pills a day, and not notice anything out of the ordinary unless he actually passes out. My kudos to her for her honesty.

My question is for Jack McElroy. Sir, your paper is supposed to be the watchdog of the people. One of your highest functions, as you wrote so eloquently in your blog, is to shine the light on local government, so that the citizens can see that their officials are dong the job they were hired to do effectively and honestly. The TBI report makes it very clear that many people in city and county government were aware of Baumgartner's drug use well before the Christian/Newsome trials. Obviously, a fairly wide array of folks outside of the government knew as well; his doctor, his suppliers, his pharmacist, etc. Others were aware of how he was bending/breaking laws to protect his dealers, and other associates. What the TBI file makes most clear in fact, is that it appears that the only people who didn't know what was going on were employed by the KNS.

So, how did your paper fail so badly at its primary function? How can so many people know about a prominent judge who is also a junkie, and your paper miss the story entirely? Why is it that you needed the TBI to release its investigation when you have a newsroom filled with reporters who should be developing the story themselves? What steps are you taking to improve your performance? Your paper has been accused in the past of being a part of local government rather than a guardian of the public, a charge that must be seen as credible now, given the myopia demonstrated about this story.

On the other hand, if you believe that the KNS did a good job, then tell us why. How is it that you can miss criminal activity by a prominent judge that extends over a period of years and still claim that the KNS is doing its job?

Or to put it another way, what good is a newspaper that fails to find out and report the news?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Turning a Blind Eye: The KNS and Richard Baumgartner

The Knoxville News Sentinel has been detailing the extensive drug use of former judge Richard Baumgartner, and calling out the dozens of people who surrounded him personally and professionally who had knowledge of the judge's drug use, yet did nothing to remove him from the bench, force him to get help, or in the case of Knoxville District Attorney Randy Nichols, investigate or prosecute him when presented with clear evidence that the judge was violating the law. The KNS points out all the people who knew or suspected that the judge had a problem, but they are curiously silent on one point.

Why didn't they know anything about it?

The KNS is the only paper in town; their court reporter, Jamie Satterfield, has reported on Baumgartner's courtroom for years, including the entire Christian/Newsome case. How can it be possible for her to spend that much time observing the judge and not notice that he was blitzed out of his mind?

Is she really that unobservant?

It's not beyond the realm of possibility. The staff of the KNS does not seem to possess an overabundance of curiosity when it comes to reporting on the dealings of the Knox County Sheriff's Office or the DA's office. They're pretty content with rewriting press releases and accepting statements from Knoxville's powers-that-be without question. It's possible that she could observe Baumgartner passing out during the climax of the trial of the decade and not suspect that maybe something was going on.

Of course, there is another possibility. The KNS may have known about Baumgartner's addiction and decided not to run with the story. Baumgartner had a lot of people covering for him. Who's to say there wasn't a publisher among them?

So which is worse, an oblivious reporter or a complicit publisher?

What good is a newspaper that either cannot or will not report the news?










Posted by Rich
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