Story by Numbers: Lessons to be gained from the latest unemployment poll

By all accounts, the fact that unemployment numbers are at their lowest in four years should be cause for celebration—with an unemployment at 7.6%, we’re led to infer that means there are more people with jobs, an implication built into the words and numbers. But the numbers aren’t everything, and they can easily present an optimistic view that, at its source, doesn’t actually signify an improvement in the economy. Rather, particularly in this case, these numbers instead highlight the fact that more people are leaving the workforce entirely, effectively not looking for work anymore, unemployment decreasing alongside employer hiring. (


This is no reason to panic of course, the economy has been growing slowly for the last few years and this is hardly a major shift off course. What’s more important to gleam from it is the lesson that the numbers aren’t always what matter the most, whether they are percentages meant to illustrate how well the economy is doing or how the stock market is faring or are simply financial goals as you plan for the future. Just as in this situation, where a number that we expect to be a good omen isn’t necessarily so, it’s always important to have an understanding of exactly what the numbers you’re working with will translate into in real goods and effects.


Whenever working with money and planning for future finances, it’s always a valuable exercise to attempt to understand and plan out just what that money you’re saving up will turn into once you have it; if you have a financial goal, know what it is you’re going to be putting that money towards. Doing so will make it easier to make assessments of how close you are to getting what you need from your financial portfolio, and it similarly acts as a means of focusing your buying power towards towards your long-term goals and any necessities, rather than allowing the money to fall prey to impulses. Much like with unemployment, recklessly hurdling towards an abstract goal will often cause some things to fall by the wayside, and you may run into some unintended consequences that you completely overlook because all of your focus is on whether or not you’re at the place financially (or otherwise) that you want to be.

Numbers are just that—twice removed from the reality of goods, properties, and services, they’re meant to allow us to keep track of our finances more easily. But as with any additional layer of complexity, it can at times be easier to see them and want more for the sake of more, rather than more for the sake of a tangible return. Even if you’re just looking to establish some financial security, giving yourself goals and making sure to approach not only the numbers but the realities of your finances critically will ensure that your money gets you where you need to go.
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