A Cursory Review Of “Selected” Census Data As Related To Unemployment In The CNMI
The census definition of unemployment, in my opinion, is so obfuscatory as to almost defy comprehension. A very convenient shield from which to hide possible enumeration deficiencies. There has been a great deal of controversy over the CNMI unemployment percentage of 14.7 percent as based on the 1995 census of population. This figure is not correct as it relates to the entire population in the NMI labor force 16 years of age and over and is a result of misinterpreting census data. The actual unemployment rate for this segment of the population in 1995 displayed on Table 19 was 7.1 percent. This figure conflicts with the unemployment percentage displayed on Table 113 of 7.9 percent. One of the pertinent tables is presented below. Table 19.
Labor Force Characteristics by Usual Residence, CNMI, 1995 Labor Force Status Work Status in 1994 LABOR FORCE STATUS Total Persons 16 years and over 43,846 In Labor Force 37,393 Percent of 16 + yrs 85.3 Employed 34,723 At work 35 or more hours 32,511 Unemployed 2,670 Perct of civilian labor 7.1 Not in Labor Force 6,453 Institutionalized persons 28 Missing from the above data table are the 1,123 persons who worked 34 hours or less. A corrected table should read: LABOR FORCE STATUS Total Persons 16 years and over 43,846 In Labor Force 37,393 Percent of 16 + yrs 85.3 Employed 33,634 At work 35 or more hours 32,511 At work 34 or less hours 1,123 Unemployed 3,759 Perct of civilian labor 10.5% Not in Labor Force 6,453 Institutionalized persons 28 Since the 1995 census was conducted in the late summer and early fall of 1995 before the entire year was concluded, it was necessary to obtain employment status information from the respondents for a specified period during the previous year (1994). The above table presents a contradictory statement particularly when listed in a table meant to depict Labor Force Characteristics under a subheading of “Work Status in 1994.” The figure of 43,846 is indicated as being the total of all persons 16 years of age and over. It includes all such persons including those 65 years and over. A one eyed, one arm, 70 year old retired paper hanger would have been included in the figure. This was the base number from which the 14.7 percent unemployed figure was derived and it is wrong to use this total in any such calculation. Thus, 37,393 (in labor force) divided by 43,846 (all persons 16 years and over) = 85.3 percent (16 + yrs.). Some users of the data have therefore reasoned that if 85.3 percent are employed then 14.7 percent must be unemployed (100 % – 85.3 % = 14.7 %). Proof of the contradiction can be seen when reviewing those 6,453 “not in the labor force” which includes 28 “institutionalized persons.” This figure is included in the base total of 43,846 published in the data table. These people cannot be “in” one data set used for an unemployment calculation and left “out” in another tabulation. They should be either in or out – but not both as has been presented in the census data table. The base figure of 43,846 should never have been used to calculate unemployment.
What should be considered in such calculations (and that which was correctly performed) is the labor force total of 37,393 compared with the “Employed” figure of 34,723 – (37,393 – 34,723 =2,670 or 7.1 percent of civilian labor unemployed). It should be kept in mind that there is a difference between the terms “labor force” and “work force.” The labor force includes all persons between the age of 16 and 65 who are either employed or unemployed. The “work force” includes only those employed. “Aunt Millie” who is 64 years old and would like to work but is not employed – she is in the labor force but not in the work force. The following is a review of the Census data as related to CNMI born persons: Table 53. Labor Force Characteristics by Birthplace and Island, CNMI, 1995 Labor Force Status Work Status in 1994 LABOR FORCE STATUS Total CNMI born Persons 16 years and over 10,421 In Labor Force 7,001 Percent of 16 + yrs 67.2 Employed 6,006 At work 35 or more hours 5,376 Unemployed 995 Perct of civilian labor 14.2 Not in Labor Force 3,416 Institutionalized Persons 4 In reviewing the data related to CNMI born persons, Census Table 10 presents the following population: Chamorro – 13,844; Carolinian – 2,382; Chamorro & other – 4,179; Carolinian & other – 1,642, Total 22,047. On Table 53 – 6,006 were listed as employed or 27.2 percent of those born in the Northern Marianas, (not necessarily indigenous persons since anyone born in the NMI in 1979 or before and present during the census would be included in the figure). This segment of the population 16 years and over as follows: Chamorro – 5,686; Carolinian – 900; Chamorro & other – 861; Carolinian & other – 418, Total 7,865, (this figure is meaningless for the purpose of determining the employment rate but is included for the record). However, Table 53, Labor Force Characteristics By Birthplace, and in particular those CNMI born indicates 7,001 persons as being in the Labor Force. Table 113 is in conflict with Table 53 as it presents a different total for CNMI born persons, namely, 10,421 of which 7,001 are in the labor force or 67.2 percent. One cannot subtract this percentage from 100% and arrive at a correct unemployment figure since the base figure of 10,421 is not an appropriate base for reasons explained above. Table 53 indicated 6,006 CNMI born in the labor force of which 995 are shown as unemployed or 14.2 percent. Table 113 depicts as “employed” the following: Chamorro – 4,793; Carolinian – 665; Chamorro and other – 671; Carolinian and other – 330, Total – 6,459. This table indicated unemployment as follows: Chamorro – 702; Carolinian – 188; Chamorro and other – 161; Carolinian and other – 72, Total 1,123. The unemployment rate among this segment of the population is 14.28%. Personally, I must disagree with the all inclusive “blanket” census definition of persons “not in the labor force”, viz., “this category consists mainly of persons doing subsistence activity only, students, housewives, retired workers, seasonal workers enumerated in an “off season” who were not looking for work, institutionalized persons, and persons doing only incidental unpaid family work, (less than 15 hours during the reference week). But my opinion is of little import. The percent of those unemployed follows; Chamorro – 14.6%; Carolinian – 28.3%; Chamorro and other – 24.0 %; Carolinian and other – 21.8% Again reviewing the data presented in Table 113, Ethnic Origin By Labor Force Status one finds 43,846 persons 16 years and over of which 37,393 are either employed or unemployed.
From this group 34,723 were employed of which 33,634 worked some hours during 1994. The remaining 2,670 were unemployed during the year and are included in the labor force total of 37,393. The question remains as to where in the data table are the 6,453 persons? (the total of 43,846 less 37,393 in the labor force equals 6,453). It is the percentage calculation based on 6,453 divided by 43,846 that results in the unemployment percentage of 14.7 percent. The data are confusing. Returning to Table 113 one finds that those 16 years of age and over (working 35 hours or more) totaled 32,511. Those that worked 34 hours or less accounted for 1,123 for a sub total of 33,634. When the 2,670 unemployed who were looking for employment and willing to work are included the total labor force becomes 36,304 and not the 34,723 depicted on the table. Add to this the 6,453 persons “not in the labor force” (which may be a misnomer and should read “not in the work force”) for a grand total of 41,176 persons 16 years of age and over and not 43,846 as now shown in the census table.
Finally, a word about the general usefulness of the data and the ease by which the lay person, unfamiliar with the intricacies of an enumeration, should be able to comprehend and interpret the data. It should always be appreciated that the census effort should be designed to provide helpful information to a wide variety of users that will permit viewing data with comprehension in a minimum amount of time. Unfortunately, the census has been so complex, so all encompassing in attempting to provide “something” for everyone that it winds up far from being “user friendly.”