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Posted: August 08, 2016

Fact-checking Donald Trump: Is federal unemployment number a 'hoax'?

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 8: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy address detailing his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club August 8, 2016 in Detroit Michigan. Donald Trump is expected to attend a fundraiser in Canton, OH later today. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Bill Pugliano
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 8: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy address detailing his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club August 8, 2016 in Detroit Michigan. Donald Trump is expected to attend a fundraiser in Canton, OH later today. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

By Cox Media Group National Content Desk

DETROIT —

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addressed hundreds of people gathered in Detroit on Monday to outline his economic policies.

"This is what I want to do for our country – I want to jumpstart America," Trump said. "It can be done, and it won't even be that hard."

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He said policies supported by President Barack Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton created "a silent nation of jobless Americans."

"There are now 94.3 million Americans outside the labor force," he said. "It was 80.5 million when President Obama took office – an increase of 14 million people. The Obama-Clinton agenda – tax, spend and regulate – has created a silent nation of jobless Americans."

He went on to say that those numbers reflect real unemployment, as opposed to the rate released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal agency puts unemployment at about 5 percent.

"These are the real unemployment numbers," Trump said. "The 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics."

It's not the first time Trump has questioned numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He's made similar claims at least half a dozen times since launching his bid for the White House.

So are federal unemployment numbers incorrect?

No, they aren't.

The problem with Trump's claim is that he appears to be looking at the total number of jobless Americans without factoring out those who aren't looking for work, such as stay-at-home parents and full-time college students.

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Let's take a look at the numbers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday said the nationwide unemployment rate was steady at 4.9 percent last month. During that same time, the Bureau measured the workforce participation rate at 62.8 percent.

The numbers may seem to be incongruous, but that's not the case when you look at how the government determines the unemployment rate.

Feds deem "people who are jobless, actively seeking work and available to take a job," as unemployed. This means people who are jobless, but not looking for work, are factored out of the ultimate unemployment percentage.

To reach its calculation, the government uses the results of a monthly survey combined with statistical sampling. Each month Census Bureau employees reach out to 60,000 sample households to interview people about whether they are looking for work and whether they are employed.

The interviewers don't determine whether a person is unemployed, but instead ask questions which determine the person's status.

"Each person is classified according to their activities during the reference week," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Then, the survey responses are 'weighted,' or adjusted to independent population estimates from the Census Bureau."

The government has been using the survey since 1940 to determine employment rates.

It is worth noting that even if there is some discrepancy between government numbers and real unemployment, economists still put the number at 15.6 percent at the highest, according to PolitiFact.


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