Treas. Sec. Snow was fielding a few questions from what appeared to be a Bush friendly audience. Beyond his insistence that tax cuts are a prerequisite for continued growth and his claim that this Administration is fiscally responsible, take a look at his response to a very good question from Jeff Burrows (hat tip to the comments section over at Dr. Thoma’s place):
Jeff: Can you advise on what the recent trends and rates of the labor force participation rate? It seems that all levels of government frequently talk about the unemployment rate but I was always taught in University that this cant be looked singularily as it does not take into account persons who may be eligible to work but have left the workforce.
Sec. Snow: I think you’re concerned about so-called “discouraged” workers, and how they fit into discussions about employment. First, we have to look at the big picture: In the past two years, the unemployment rate has fallen nearly one percentage point overall. It has fallen even more, by 1.3 percent, when so-called “discouraged” workers are included, and that’s good news.
Huh – what was the good news again? That we still have a sizeable number of folks who have been without jobs for over a year? Jeff had an excellent question. Too bad, the Treasury Secretary failed to answer it. Then again – if he had, he might also be unemployed.
Update: I have two questions related to how Sec. Snow answered Tristan’s question regarding the unemployment rate in her state. Here is Snow’s answer:
I’d be happy to. I know that the workers of Michigan need more job creation and more good news, with your unemployment rate (at 6.5 percent) higher than the national rate of 4.9 percent. In terms of modern Michigan history, however, 6.5 percent is one of the lowest unemployment rates the state has seen.
But go here and pick Michigan from the list of states and check out its time series on the unemployment rate. From March 1999 to October 2000, the reported unemployment rate was 4.0% or less. Yes, there is that footnote that says “Reflects new modeling approach and reestimation as of March 2005”. Anyone more familiar with the Michigan employment data than I am is welcomed to address my two questions: (1) what does this footnote mean in terms of comparisons across time?; and (2) was Snow guilty of stupidity or mendacity when he answered Tristan’s question?