How would you define “unemployment?” Statistics on unemployment are bandied around in the media all the time. Changes in these statistics are hailed as good or bad news for the President, with varying degrees of emphasis from the news networks, depending on which party the President belongs to. But what do these statistics truly measure?

Would you define “unemployment” as measuring “people who want a job, but can’t get one?” This is, broadly speaking, the definition embraced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trick to making those numbers dance lies in measuring “people who want a job.” The widely reported U-3 unemployment metric, currently standing at 8.3 percent, is very aggressive in shaving off people who have not made recent efforts to find work. It is further distorted by massive “seasonal adjustments,” which made over a million people vanish into thin air last month.