One Potato, Two Potato, …….

Yesterday’s trivia question:

Quick, how many miles is our sun from the earth?

If you remember your science from school and guessed the average distance to be 93,000,000 miles you remember right –but no, not really. The actual average distance to the sun is 92,960,000 miles. Gotcha!

Today’s trivia question:

What is the unemployment rate in the United States?

If you guessed 8.3% –sorry, you’re wrong. It’s actually 8.254%. How do I know this? Oh, our White House yesterday released a statement pointing out “precisely” that the 8.3% is actually 8.254%. No doubt about it, the 8.254% is the number, “precisely’. Alan Krueger, White House Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and author of this statement, also pointed out that the unemployment rate was “essentially unchanged” as the rate in June was 8.217%.

As a result of this precise, to my knowledge first time, nit-picking correction, I have a question:

Mr. Krueger, if I understand you correctly, in June the unemployment rate was “precisely” 8.214% and not the 8.2% that was reported and roundly used by all. Okay, so that means that last month you issued a statement that the “precise” rate was not 8.2% but really 8.214%–ostensibly to report the technically correct number as you did in your statement yesterday. Surprise, surprise: that particular correction does not exist. Now why would this educated economist make the distinction now for the month of July, and last month with the same distinction for June,–nothing?

And this statistical percentage involves calculations including millions and millions of people with a myriad of variables and factors. Regardless of one’s political leanings we can all agree if the figure now, 5 years ago, or 5 years from now, is within a full percentage point one way or the other, it would be a miracle. A number that comes from an algorithm that makes a lot of assumptions is at best, an estimate. A word that does ‘not’ come to mind with statistics like these is “precise”.

So why this first time carping about 0.046% from an educated economist with a PhD from Harvard, who sits on President Obama’s Cabinet– what does it mean?

One word comes to mind, Desperation


  1. this post is trite and mere trivia

  2. Randy in Richmond says:

    Yea Dick, just like the subject of the post.

  3. If the rate falls to 8.249% next month, I doubt we will see a clarification. 🙂

    I also doubt we will see a clarification about the “underemployment” rate, which ticked up to 15%.