Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First reaction paper I'm sharing this semester: The Real Unemployment Rate

Here is the first reaction paper I'll post for this semester's examples of student reaction papers.

In class, we have been discussing poverty and the welfare programs that help those in need of financial assistance. Over the past few months, I have found myself more and more interested in politics and current events. So, I started having small political conversations with my roommates; particularly about unemployment and the current economy Yet, I soon realized that the environment that people grew up in greatly affects their views of the world around them. I wish there was a way to show people what it is really like to not be blessed with a stable income. I have always had an interest in how unemployment affects people and their families. My parents both lost their jobs when I was in high school, and even though they are both working now, the effects from their previous unemployment still linger.
            One of my roommates is from a very small town in southern Illinois. One time, we were having a conversation about unemployment, and I was talking about the lack of jobs available to people. She replied saying that people are just lazy. She said that there is plenty of work and she knows many people who just choose not to take those jobs. This angered me because it is [nearly] completely untrue. Yes, there are some jobs available. However, there are not enough jobs to accommodate all of the unemployed Americans. I knew she was just na├»ve to what is actually going on in the current economy. So, I chose to look up an article about unemployment in America for this reaction essay.
            I stumbled across an article entitled “Unemployment rate drops to 8.3 percent; but economy still struggling.” The article discussed how people were excited about the drop from 8.5 to 8.3 percent unemployment and the 243,000 jobs added in January. Yet, what article shared that politicians are not eager to talk about are the 1.177 million people who gave up their job search last month. Taking the disheartened people into account, the article explained that the unemployment rate is more [accurately described as being] around 9.4 percent. I do not like how people look solely at the unemployment rate and think it is an accurate description of how well the United States is improving. There are other factors to consider other than the calculated unemployment rate.
            Specifically, in addition to those who gave up looking for jobs, I think the article should have also mentioned the millions of people working unstable part-time jobs (often more than one) instead of full-time jobs. Such people, like my father, are not included in the unemployment rate. Still, these people have been greatly affected by the poor economic conditions. Their hours are cut, they cannot pay their bills, and the stress from all of this affects their happiness. What widely used monthly statistic accounts for those hardworking individuals? There isn’t one. Class today was the first time I heard that there was a “real unemployment rate” that is about 15.1 percent currently. This rate takes into account those who only work part-time jobs but want full-time or gave up looking for work. While I am glad this real unemployment rate is calculated, I still think it should be more widely dispersed. The media shows the public that the unemployment rate has gone down to 8.3 percent. However, the real unemployment rate of 15.1 percent is the same as last year and shows that not much has truly changed. This is the rate that government officials should be focusing their time on.


Shott, J.H. (2012). Unemployment rate drops to 8.3 percent; but economy still struggling. Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from:

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