Basic Facts about Wealth and Poverty

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Jun 8 08:11:14 PDT 1998

Rob Schaap wrote:

>Doug says of US 'fundamentals:
>'A balanced budget, 1.4% inflation, 4.3% unemployment, 296,000 new jobs in
>May, 3% year-to-year real wage increases....
>It may not be utopia, but who's doing better?'
>The Yen, every other Asian currency, and the Ozzie took a bath today. Last
>year the Oz was above US 0.80, now a couple of quarters'll get you one.
>And Oz can boast items 1,2,4 and (nearly) 5 of Doug's list - we can't boast
>(3) coz we have fewer 'working poor' and consequently a more accurate (if
>still dodgy) unemployment index.

Why do people find the U.S. unemployment stats so hard to believe? The OECD reports two sets of unemployment rates, one according to national definitions and one standardized to a common definition. The most recent standardized U rate they report is for 1996, and we see:

U.S. 5.4% Japan 3.4 Germany 8.9 U.K. 9.7 Canada 9.7 Australia 8.6

Since there's no difference between their two reported rates for Australia and the U.S., I'm assuming that the definitions are roughly comparable. For 1998, the OECD estimates U.S. unemployment at 4.8% and Australia at 8.1%.

We may have more "working poor," but they are working, if poor.


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