Gallup CEO: 5.6% Unemployment Rate a ‘Big Lie’

February 4, 2015 12:54 pm Last Updated: February 4, 2015 6:00 pm

The CEO of Gallup polls published a rare opinion piece today warning Americans the official 5.6 percent unemployment rate as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor “is extremely misleading.”

The current number as a “big lie,” Jim Clifton said in a blog post published on the Gallup corporate website. Clifton, who has run Gallup since 1988, has a book titled “The Coming Job War,” published in 2011.

“If you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks—the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed,” Clifton writes.

“While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news —currently 5.6 percent. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast ‘falling’ unemployment,” he said.

He also said that if one does at least one hour of work per week and is paid at least $20, you’re not counted as being “unemployed.”

Clifton’s article is informed by his work as a pollster. In a previous post where he said Americans were kidding themselves about the economy, published in February of 2014, he said the most important indicators of a true economic recovery would include new business births outnumbering business deaths, significant GDP growth, and the steady growth of full-time jobs.

Part-time Work

“Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work,” Clifton said on Wednesday.

“If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part-time because it is all you can find—in other words, you are severely underemployed— the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6 percent. Few Americans know this.”

Clifton goes on to say that only 44 percent of Americans are currently working at a good job that has more than 30 hours per week for an organization that hands out a regular paycheck.

“There’s no other way to say this,” he added.

“The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed, as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a big lie.”

Long-term Unemployment

Statistics website FiveThirtyEight notes that nearly 3 million Americans have been out of work for more than three years, which is what the United States defines as long-term unemployment.

“Long-term unemployment remains higher today than at the peak of any previous recession. Moreover, the problem appears to be at least partially structural: The amount of time the typical person remains out of work has been trending upward for decades,” the site said.

Last week, President Barack Obama unveiled a number of proposals that are aimed at changing the unemployment system, and he touted the 5.6 percent unemployment rate as an achievement.

As Politifact notes, the labor force participation rate has actually heavily decreased since 2008, falling to 62.7 percent in December 2014 from 66 percent in September 2008.