Orchardist falls flat in trying to hire unemployed, underemployed workers
A Treasure Valley orchardist was thinking he could do something to help Idaho’s August unemployment rate of 9.1 percent as well as the Canyon County rate, which was more than 12 percent at the end of the summer. But his advertisement looking for orchard workers at $12-$15 an hour went begging. With not enough applicants from his ad, he ended up with a work crew from the sheriff’s office.
The orchardist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he advertised for workers to pick peaches in his orchard. When the fruit is ready to be picked, he explained, it must done right then or the crop will be lost. He said the work is not easy, but he figured with thousands of people out of work in the valley that finding workers would not be a problem. He was wrong.
The work, he said, is performance based, but on average workers receive anywhere from $12-$14 an hour, sometimes $15 an hour. The crew starts harvesting peaches in mid-August and continues picking various fruits until the end of October.
He is unsure if people are not willing to look for work anymore possibly because they are dependent on unemployment benefits, or the unemployment situation is being overblown. Whatever the case, “We called the sheriff and he sent out a crew of about 15-20 people, and it helped quite a lot. It wasn’t nearly as many (people) as we needed, but it did help.”
The experience left him very frustrated. “You know, I just look at these reports that say there are 10,000 unemployed in Canyon County, but there really aren’t many people that want to work.”
Not that it means much to him after his experience in looking for orchard workers, but the Idaho unemployment figures for September will be released Oct. 21. The Gem State figures typically reflect the national figures. National numbers have already been released with the traditional rate, called U-3, pegged at 9.1 percent – same as in July and August. The U-6 number, which is thought by some economists to be a better indicator of unemployment, was 16.5 percent in September, up from 16.2 percent in August. U-6 takes into account those who are part-time employees but wish to be full-time, and those who are marginally attached to the workforce - people who say they want a job but cannot find one.
If the Idaho numbers in September mirror the national figures, the U-3 number – which is the figure most commonly used each month – will show Idaho with 9.1 percent unemployed, or about 75,000 people. U-6 data in Idaho, released each quarter, will likely match the federal number of 16.5 percent, meaning the unemployed number is really closer to 125,000.
U-6 has only been around since 1995. A number of economists lobbied the government for a new method other than U-3 numbers to classify unemployment. Japan, Canada and Western Europe all use unemployment numbers more similar to U-6 than U-3. So, the economists reasoned, it is important for the U.S. to have a similar means to compare unemployment figures with other countries.
Monte Munn, an economics professor at Treasure Valley Community College, believes U-6 number should be used instead of U-3. “U-6 is a lot more accurate. U-3 greatly underestimates, or understates the real unemployment,” he said.
Munn also believes that the government, regardless of which party is in power, doesn’t want to tarnish its image by using the higher U-6 figure. “It would scare the citizens to death and it would make the government look bad. The government wants to look as good as it can.”
Dr. Antony Davies is an economics professor at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania and a researcher at the Mercatus Center at George MasonUniversity inVirginia. Mercatus defines its mission as approaching problems from a market-oriented perspective. Davies said the debate between U-3 and U-6 numbers is somewhat imprecise.
In an email to IdahoReporter.com, Davies said he believes there is no “best” way to measure unemployment because, “there is no way of knowing whether a given person is looking for a job but can’t find one (i.e., unemployed) or no longer looking (i.e., discouraged – economists call these ‘nonemployed’). Similarly, there is no way of knowing whether a worker has voluntarily chosen to be part time (U-3 counts part-time workers as ‘employed’) or whether the person wants to work full time but can only find part-time work (U-6 counts these people as partially employed).”
However, Davies said what is important is to keep whichever method is cited in context. Davies explained that “From 2000 to 2007, U-3 averaged 5.0 percent. Today, U-3 is 9.1 percent. In other words, U-3 today is 1.81 times what it was from 2000 to 2007. While U-6 is an (apparently) whopping 16.1 percent today, from 2000 to 2007, U-6 averaged 8.7 percent. That makes U-6 today 1.84 times what it was from 2000 to 2007.”
Photo courtesy of agricultureguide.org