I Just Do Not Understand Percentages

The Associated Press ran a story a few days ago on the latest unemployment numbers.

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in two years in March

Yea!!!  That’s good news.


Fewer than two-thirds of American adults are either working or looking for work – the lowest participation rate in 25 years.

So the news is mixed.

But the point of my blog post that is wasting your time is here:

Economists expect the stronger hiring to endure throughout the year, producing a net gain of about 2.5 million jobs for 2011. Even so, that would make up for only a small portion of the 7.5 million jobs wiped out during the recession.

So if we have lost 7.5 million jobs and we gain 2.5 million jobs in 2011, that 2.5 million is just a small portion of the 7.5 million.  You see, to me it looks like 33% of the lost jobs.

OK, it is not quite that simple.

Let me try and figure this out.  The article says that the private sector added 216,000 jobs in March (I think it means March, but it is kind of impressive that we know this on April 1).  If we annualize that number, we get the 2.5 million jobs for 2011 (more or less).

But the article also says that

The economy must average up to 300,000 new jobs a month to significantly lower unemployment.

I take it this is a reference to the fact that so many new jobs are needed every month just to tread water.   I believe that number is 127,ooo or so.  Anualized, we need 1,524,000 new jobs to break even.

But in March, we gained at an annualized rate 2.5 million, or 976,000 more than needed to break even.    So, by my calculations, the annualized projection of 976,000 new jobs above the break even point represents 13% of the 7.5 million jobs wiped out during the recession.

Now the article said 300,000 monthly new jobs would “significantly lower unemployment.”  That annualizes out to 3.6 million new jobs.  That is 2.1 million more than is needed to break even.   That would be 28% of the 7.5 million lost jobs.

So 28% is significant while 13% is a small portion.   Maybe.

Must be that liberal press.


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