Friday, September 5, 2008

Fresh, Juicy Numbers!

OK, so there's a contingent of economists out there that salivate over the monthly release of some statistic or index by the federal government. I am usually not in this crowd. Nevertheless, two important statistics have come out on the cusp of this particular summer that I thought merited mention.

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the most recent unemployment data. No surprise - we hit a five year high for unemployment: 6.1%. Paul Krugman has an interesting, quizzical perspective on this figure in his blog this morning. To summarize: 6.1% is bad, but for some reason we're still not in a recession... as Krugman says, the economy is being "ground down" rather than crashing - and this may be what recessions start to look like in the relatively inflation-free early twenty first century.

The second bit of data is the annual Census release of the poverty figures. The Post reports that these figures show an unchanged poverty rate from last year - hanging at 12.5% (no statistically significant difference from last year's 12.3%). Median incomes have climbed slightly. The big story out of these Census numbers surrounds health insurance. The number of people without health insurance has declined by 1 million since last year, from 47 million to 45.7 million. This is unlikely to deflate the momentum behind national health care, but hopefully it will at least moderate some of the positions and move the emphasis away from "coverage" per se, and onto costs - which I think is the real problem.

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