Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks


Style Evolves

It was time for a change, I thought.  The Statue of Liberty is a bit overused, so I thought I’d give the theme a bit of a wash and brush-up, as Group Captain Mandrake would say.  Switch the old columns around, change the typography a bit.  You know, the whole works.

A question about typography, by the way.  Is anyone working on any screen fonts other than Georgia or Verdana that look as good as far as readability at all different sizes goes?  I really don’t like the new ClearType fonts–Calibri, Candara, etc.–because their readibility sucks at anything under 10 points.  As does Arial or Helvetica, for that matter.  They really are best suited as header fonts, not body text.

We really need to find some way of getting out font preferences over the web to the readers in some way.  Right now, Verdana and Georgia really are the only two fonts that have 98%+ penetration for both PC and Mac Users, and look really good on screen for pretty much everybody.  What we really need is a way to embed whatever fonts we want to use into the site in some sort of lightweight fashion that can be transmitted to the users, in much the same way that the CSS styles are, and provide nice readability.

Somebody needs to be working on this.  I’d love to Book Antiqua this mother.


Podcast for 07 Mar 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy and the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


“Unexpectedly” Bad Employment Statistics

The Employment Situation statistics are due out later this week.  They will be bad.  I know this, because Larry Summers is already spinning them.

White House economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday winter blizzards were likely to distort U.S. February jobless figures, which are due to be released on Friday.

“The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. So it’s going to be very important … to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends,” Summers said in an interview with CNBC, according to a transcript.

So, please, when you see the numbers of Friday, be sure you don’t assume that they have any policy implications.  It’s all about the weather, you see.


Rebellious Province?

So, I’m watching “60 Minutes” last night, as they reported about Chinese espionage against the US.  Then out of the blue, I hear Taiwan described by Scott Pelley as, “the rebellious Chinese island that mainland China wants to reclaim.”

Wow.  Except for the bit about Taiwan being an island, there is almost nothing in that sentence that is factually correct.  It is almost the complete reversal of the truth.

Taiwan is, in fact, the last vestige of the Republic of China–the government that was pushed off the mainland by the communist rebels in 1949.  The communist government in Peking–that’s right, I wrote “Peking”–never occupied it or owned it, so they can’t “reclaim” it.  It isn’t a “rebellious” province.  It is the last outpost of the legitimate–and I use that word very advisedly, considering the Kuomintang’s shaky claim to legitimacy–ROC government that the Chicoms drove out of the mainland.

That really irked me.


Podcast for 28 Feb 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the Obama Administration’s security policies and the healthcare summit.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Podcast for 21 Feb 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the economy in the US and Europe, as well as gun rights.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Podcast for 14 Feb 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the Republican desire not to be seen as the “Party of No”; China, the Euro, and the Dollar; and what seems to be a fundamental shift in the assertions of the AGW crowd.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Counting Unemployment

The most recent release of unemployment data has raised some questions, namely, how can we lose 20,000 jobs in the same month that the unemployment rate declined to 9.7%.  The answer is simple: The unemployment rate is essentially a made-up figure.  And I can give you a much more accurate way to measure the unemployment rate.

First, let’s take a brief look at how the monthly Employment Situation figures are compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The BLS combines two surveys to compile the Employment Situation.  The first survey is the Establishment Survey.  That’s a pretty accurate survey, because it consists of asking businesses to provide hard payroll data on the number of existing jobs.   The second is the Household Survey, which is where the train runs off the rails.

For the Household survey, they ask if you are employed.  If the answer is “No”, they then ask if you if you’re actively looking for a job. If the answer is no, then they just simply take you out of the labor force.  They don’t care whether you aren’t looking for work because you know there are no jobs available, or whether you’ve retired and are planning to sail a sloop across the Pacific.  If you aren’t actively looking for work, you aren’t part of the labor force.  So, the official unemployment rate generally understates–sometimes substantially–the real level of unemployment.

Fortunately, there is a better way to calculate the rate of real unemployment, and the BLS web site conveniently provides you with all the data you need to do it.  From here, we only need three items: The Civilian Noninstitutional Population, the Participation Rate, and the number of Employed.

The first thing we need to do is figure out the Labor Force Participation Rate during the most recent period of full employment.  If you take the average monthly labor force participation rate from the 70 months between Jan 04 and Oct 08, you get a participation rate in the labor for of 66% of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population.

Next, you multiply the Civilian Noninstitutional Population by 0.66.  That gives you the size of the normal labor force at full employment.

Next, you take the number of Employed, and calculate the actual rate of unermployment using the following equation:

1-(Employed/Normal Labor Force)=Unemployment Rate.

So, with this method, we can compare the unemployment level of Oct 08, right before the economy cratered, to last month.  When we do so, we get the following results:

OCT 08:
Civilian Noninstitutinal Population:
234,612,000
Participation Rate: 66%
Labor Force:
154,843,920
Employed: 145,543,000
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%

Jan 10:
Civilian Noninstitutinal Population:
236,832,000
Participation Rate: 66%
Labor Force:
156,309,120
Employed: 136,809,000
Unemployment Rate: 12.5%

Note that this calculation for Oct 08 is very close to the official unemployment rate of 6.1%.  But as the economy gets worse the official employment rates show greater and greater variance.  In other words, the official unemployment rate becomes progressively less accurate as the Employment Situation worsens, substantially understating the actual rate of unemployment.  This is, by the way a feature of the BLS’s method, not a bug.  It is no coincidence, as our Soviet friends used to say, that discouraged workers fall out of the labor force calculations.

Now, this measure I’ve explained doesn’t tell us anything about people who are working only part-time, when they’d prefer a full time job, so it doesn’t tell us much about underemployment.  But it does tell us, based on the recent historical labor force participation rate, what the size of the labor force should be.  Once we know that, it becomes very easy to see what the actual rate of unemployment is in real terms, rather than the notional terms provided by the Household Survey.

According the BLS, however, the Civilian noninstitutional population has increased by 2,220,000 people  from 234,612,000 to 236,932,000, while, at the same time, the civilian labor force has shrunk by 2,055,000 people  from 155,012,000 to 153,455,000.  Using the BLS numbers, then, the labor force participation rate is 64.6%.  That kind of demographic change might be expected in a couple of years when the baby Boomers begin retiring in large numbers, but for right now, it seems…counter-intuitive.

In any event, 12.5% unemployment is a far more realistic number than the BLS estimate of 9.7%.

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Podcast for 07 Feb 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the unemployment numbers and Sarah Palin.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.