Friday, March 9, 2012

Dumb statistics that need to be abandoned

A statistic that I hate that often gets reported is "unemployment by industry" (for example, in this recent Economix blog post). If you're unemployed, you don't have an industry. That's the whole problem! The number is actually the unemployment rate for workers whose most recent job was in a particular industry. That made more sense back in the days when temporary layoffs that workers would be called back from dominated unemployment, but it doesn't make much sense today.

A more enlightening figure would be separations by industry. The unemployment rate by industry figure is basically giving you the separation rate adjusted for the unemployment duration of those who separate. But that mixes a lot of information about industry trends and worker characteristics, so I don't find it as informative as a straight separation rate.

Actually, the Economix blog post does something else that I hate - the title of the post is "Unemployment by Job Category", even though it's discussing unemployment by industry. A job is a particular activity that a worker does in exchange for money. An industry is a group of producers of a particular good or service. For example, "manager" is a job or an occupation. But there are "managers" in all industries. Reporters who talk about the economy as a career should not be confusing occupations and industries. Perhaps they should be looking for a new industry... I mean job.

Rant over.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.