In the next debate between candidates Kerry and Bush, unemployment in the United States will be a point of sharp disagreement. President Bush will state that many jobs were lost due to uncontrollable circumstances in the economy, however, the trend in job growth is positive, sustained, and substantial. John Kerry will state that people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are suffering from lost jobs while quoting an abundance of statistics.
Since raw data can be misleading, it’s important to place statistics in context. Consequently, by comparing unemployment percentage rates among various countries, an indication of the state of the economy in the United States with regard to the global economy can be obtained. The following numbers (Unemployment rate, Data date) for each country should be kept in mind when enjoying the campaign rhetoric of the candidates’ debate.
United Kingdom – 4.7% (May 2004)
Japan – 4.9% (July 2004)
United States – 5.4% (August 2004)
Canada – 7.2% (July 2004)
Italy – 8.5% (January 2004)
France – 9.5% (year ending July 2004)
Germany – 9.9% (year ending July 2004)
NOTE: These are OECD, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, standardized unemployment rates which reflect uniform application of definitions resulting in estimates that are more internationally comparable than those based on national definitions.
It should be noted that these are national rates and local pockets within the U.S. are experiencing rates higher than the national. However, the locally high unemployment rates in the U.S. (for example, the NE Ohio rate is higher than the national but still less than 6%) don’t even come close to the rates published for France and Germany. In fact, according to the Federal Labor Office, German unemployment rose substantially last month to 10.7%, almost twice the rate of the U.S.
Obviously, the above comparison is meaningless to people that are out of work and it’s recognized that any rate of unemployment is undesirable. However, the comparison can be useful in helping recognize grossly exaggerated claims sprinkled into debate rhetoric.
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