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Abbott & Costello Take on the Real Unemployment Rate

Abbott & Costello Take on the Real Unemployment Rate

By Barry Levinson, US News and World Report

COSTELLO:   I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

ABBOTT:   Good Subject.  Terrible Times.  Itís 5.6%.

COSTELLO:   That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT:   No, thatís 23%.  

COSTELLO:   You just said 5.6%.

ABBOTT:   5.6% Unemployed.

COSTELLO:   Right 5.6% out of work.

ABBOTT:   No, thatís 23%.

COSTELLO:   Okay, so itís 23% unemployed.

ABBOTT: : No, thatís 5.6%.

COSTELLO:   (waits for a minute)  So, is it 5.6% or 23%?

ABBOTT:   5.6% are unemployed.  23% are out of work.

COSTELLO:   If you are out of work you are unemployed.

ABBOTT:   No, the government said you canít count the ďOut of WorkĒ as the unemployed.  You have to look for work to be unemployed.


ABBOTT:   No, you miss the point.

COSTELLO:   What point?

ABBOTT:   Someone who doesnít look for work canít be counted with those who look for work. It wouldnít be fair.

COSTELLO:   To whom?

ABBOTT:   The unemployed.  

COSTELLO:   But ALL of them are out of work.  

ABBOTT:   No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

COSTELLO:   So if youíre off the unemployment roles that would count as less unemployment?

ABBOTT:   Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

COSTELLO:   The unemployment just goes down because you donít look for work?

ABBOTT:   Absolutely it goes  down. Thatís how it gets to 5.6%. Otherwise it would be 23%.

COSTELLO:   Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?  

ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

COSTELLO:   Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

ABBOTT:   Correct.

COSTELLO:   And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

ABBOTT:   Bingo.  

COSTELLO:   So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.

ABBOTT:    Now you're thinking like an economist.

COSTELLO: I don't even know what the hell I just said!

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