EMPLOYMENT STATS ARE "HAPPY NUMBERS" - Marshall U Economist Says "Misleading"

The state Bureau of Employment Programs is reporting that unemployment stats remain static for West Virginia in December.

A loss of about two-thousand jobs in the goods-producing sector was offset by a gain in the service sector, with about 50,000 people unemployed.

Seasonal service sector jobs, about 2,700, helped further decline.

Marshall University economist Mark Hicks says "job gains numbers" are very misleading. "It's a fictitious piece of data that the development office employs that really talks to the number of people they have tried to encourage to come to the state, and they have responded with a press release that they will at some future date create some number of jobs," explained Hicks.

The Federal Department of Labor and West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs says West Virginia has lost 25,000 jobs since 2001.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commence has said the state has lost about 35,000 jobs, many of which have gone to other countries. The chamber has declined to confirm these numbers, after a request by the Hur Herald.

Hicks says the data issued by the state is questionable at best. He calls is "a happy number" that is never bad news but is often misleading.

Even unemployment numbers do not represent people who have not found a job, only those whose unemployment benefits have been exhausted.

The "boom" in national employment touted by the Bush administration appears to be a "happy number" reflecting low-dollar service industry jobs, many seasonal.