Good news mixed with bad news means no news at all

Note: This column appears in the 12/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/4 issue of the Peoria Times

Whenever I hear a statistic regarding some thing that seems impossible to measure -– i.e.: 43% of Americans believe that Lady Gaga is an alien -– I am skeptical. Whenever I hear a statistic released by some branch of federal or state government that attempts to accurately reflect some aspect of this state or nation, I am skeptical. Whenever I hear a statistic released by some branch of federal or state government that is seemingly in direct contrast with a different statistic they have released, I am skeptical.

So you cannot blame my skepticism at the news released a couple of weeks ago that Arizona is steadily gaining jobs…while the unemployment rate continues to rise.

Arizona is watching its employment and unemployment rate rise simultaneously. I mean, what’s the confusion? You’re hired! But you’re also fired.

According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, the unemployment rate has risen from 9.1 percent to 9.3 percent over the past three months. In that span, the state has also seen an increase in jobs, mostly in the private sector. When asked to elaborate, Frank Curtis, director of data systems for the commerce department said, “Seasonal hiring is much better. It was almost nonexistent last year.”

One explanation: seasonal hiring. I am left to assume that “seasonal” jobs are simply ignored by those tallying unemployment statistics. You’re Santa Claus? Pfftt. Doesn’t count. Consider yourself unemployed. Also, considering that these statistics range from August through November, I am left to believe that Arizona witnessed a huge boom in its Labor Day workforce for 2009. How apropos.

Nevermind that the explanation of “seasonal hiring” also contrasts a feature from the Arizona Republic stating that Glendale and Peoria businesses in particular are altering their holiday strategies this year. A strategy that includes hiring less help. Quote: “{The adjustments} include earlier holiday sales, a wider selection of lower-priced goods and fewer salespeople working showroom floors.”

So, to recap, Arizona is gaining jobs. But Arizona is also losing jobs. But the reason we are gaining jobs is because of seasonal hirings. But seasonal hirings are down. Smiley face :) Also, frowny face :(

I believe that statistics like unemployment rates and hiring percentages and the like are researched and computed and released as a means of giving the general public some kind of feel of what is going on. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what is going on. The data has failed us. It’s like that time I discovered that 90% of Snapple facts are false.

To me it seems like, as a result of the current economic climate, we’re often grasping at straws for some good news and statistics to back it up. Only thing is, that data usually includes some caveat that things really aren’t that great after all. This renders almost everything we’ve heard pointless and irrelevant.

Kind of like this column. Regardless, happy Labor Day!


Bill said…
Mike, this blog is getting better every day, and it is also getting worse every day.

Seriously though, great article. It is annoying when stats pretty much exactly contradict each other. The only way that both the unemployment rate and the amount of employed people could rise simultaneously, is if a ton of new people suddenly came to Arizona, but only some of them got jobs. I'm sure they account for that though, because Arizona's population is always growing.

Like Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. That's why I only believe statistics that back up how awesome David Eckstein is at hitting.