Business: Trying to Measure Hardship

The national unemployment rate is one of only two economic statistics—along with the consumer price index—that regularly stir hot political debate. Last week the Government reported that in January joblessness dropped slightly, to 5.8% of the labor force, continuing a period of little change. As the economy slows later this year, however, the rate is sure to rise, and so will questioning about whether the nation is paying too high a price to curb inflation.

But what does the rate really mean? Liberals grouse that it is too low, because it does not count people who are too "discouraged" to look...

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