Cartoon: How We Define Unemployment

Two characters are standing on the planet earth. They are giants – they could step across a continent in five steps – but they’re drawn in an adorable tiny-body-cute-head fashion. One of them is wearing a floral-patterned short sleeve shirt and an “Uncle Sam” hat; the other wears a business suit.

Panel 1
UNCLE SAM: The economy is awful! How will we fix this mess?
BUSINESSMAN: I know! Let’s measure unemployment with a bizarre definition that makes it look much smaller!

Panel 2
MAN: I can’t find full-time work so I’m supporting my kids with a twelve hour a week job.
BUSINESSMAN (popping in from the side of the panel, in the foreground, and addressing the readers instead of the man, with a manic grin): Not unemployed!

Panel 3
WOMAN: I want to work, but after ten months of looking and no luck, I’ve given up.
UNCLE SAM (again, popping in and not looking at the other character): Not unemployed!

Panel 4
MUSTACHE MAN: I made five bucks by watching my friend’s baby for an hour this week.
BUSINESSMAN: (You get the idea by now, right?) Not unemployed!

Panel 5
PUNK WOMAN: I do chores fifteen hours a week at my parents’ farm, but I’m not paid.
UNCLE SAM: Not unemployed!

Panel 6
STUDENT CARRYING BOOK: I’m taking a month off from job-hunting to take classes to improve my skills.
BUSINESSMAN: Not unemployed!

Panel 7
UNCLE SAM: That was amazing! We cut unemployment in half without doing a thing to help anyone!
BUSINESSMAN: Problem solved!

Sub-panel at the end
UNCLE SAM: Get a job![/spoiler]

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6 Responses to Cartoon: How We Define Unemployment

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Yep. I’ve seen estimates of true unemployment – people between the ages of 18 to 65 who don’t have a full-time job – at about 37%, the highest since 1979.

    But I gotta tell you, Amp – this is old news. This cartoon would have been entirely valid before the election as well.

  2. 2
    Decnavda says:

    You forgot the disabled and the incarcerated. They are not “unemployed” either.

  3. 3
    nobody.really says:

    This cartoon would have been entirely valid before the election as well.

    Exactly. And come to think of it, where’s my third Mirka book?

    Damn it, Amp — draw faster! Or we’ll replace you will undocumented aliens. Or robots. Or undocumented alien robots. (‘Cuz honestly, who beside RonF reads those documents anyway?)

  4. 4
    alex says:

    These criticisms make me really angry. The definition of employment isn’t bizarre – it done so the numbers reconcile to the national accounts. So we are all on the same page, these are the national accounts were developed to measure economic activity in the wake of the great depression – so that governments would have access to a tool for making keynesian interventions. You know THE ONE BIT OF ECONOMICS WHICH HAS ABSOLUTELY BEEN VALIDATED BY THE RECENT CRISIS.

    Rather than criticising, we should appreciate that these guys (yeah, they were all men) did a great job and that the various feminist criticisms of the sna have been shown up as total bullshit. I can’t draw. But if I could I would replace the suited man with dungareed womens studies professor and she would be saying stuff like “the sna doesn’t respect the agency of women” or “doesn’t value the caregiving and emotional labor of women” or “reifies complex social structures with a hegemonic calculative logic”. People would respond by saying “I couldn’t give a fuck, how will that help the government…” and then they’d point out some real problem like “get my house out of negative equity” or “stop my factory from being closed down” or “fund my school”. For the punchline I’d have the economy back to growth and the problems solved, and the DWSP would be crying saying “The fools, how can they not see the benefits of imputing the value of non-market emotional worth, in reality patriarchy is still causing a recession of the heart”.

  5. 5
    Decnavda says:

    Alex –
    Amazing! Amp draws one of his few cartoons that addresses an economic issue without relating it to gender issues and which barely has one woman in it, and not only do you completely blow your critique of the economic issue (by hiding the real un- and under- employment numbers, the current definition of unemployment hides the need for keynesian interventions), but you launch into an irrelevant misogynist rant implying this is representative of “the various feminist criticisms of the sna”. Wow.

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    I didn’t write this – but I wish I had.

    COSTELLO: Tell me about the unemployment rate in America.

    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 7.8%.

    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%

    COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.

    ABBOTT: 7.8% Unemployed.

    COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 14.7% unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 7.8%.

    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE! Is it 7.8% or 14.7%?

    ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.

    COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, Congress said you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.


    ABBOTT: No, you miss the point.

    COSTELLO: What point?

    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

    COSTELLO: To whom?

    ABBOTT: The unemployed.

    COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment rolls that would count as less unemployment?

    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how they get it to 7.8%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. Our govt. doesn’t want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.

    COSTELLO: That would be tough on those running for reelection.

    ABBOTT: Absolutely!

    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

    ABBOTT: Correct.

    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo.

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an Economist.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the heck I just said!

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like Congress. . .