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How NY Times econ reporter Casselman digs into unemployment

May 2, 2020

Posted by Chris Roush

Ben Casselman

Alex Traub of The New York Times interviewed business reporter Ben Casselman on how he assesses unemployment data.

Here is an excerpt:

What can you do to interpret that number?

One thing we’ve been trying to do is give historical context. I’m sure people can understand that six million layoffs in a week is bad, but how bad, I think, is tricky. So saying that’s 10 times as bad as the worst week we’ve ever seen before — that does start to convey it.

I’ve also talked to a lot of people in the course of this. Many of their stories have stuck with me.

I spoke to a woman named Liz who was offered what seemed like a really good opportunity working for the MGM resort company in Las Vegas. In early March, she picked up her life and moved. By the time she was driving across the desert, we were already starting to see shutdowns. People were canceling conferences.

She spent only two days on the job before her whole team was furloughed. She was briefly both jobless and homeless.

What it illustrated is how quickly the world changed. We went from the lowest unemployment rate in half a century and one of the strongest economies in decades to the worst downturn potentially since the Great Depression — almost overnight.

Read more here.

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