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By Willoughby Mariano December 30, 2011

Broun: 315,000 Americans gave up looking for work

Want to make voters pay attention? Use the word "jobs."

The national unemployment rate may be down, but the economy’s still in a jobs funk. Congress is under pressure from virtually all sides to pass legislation that encourages job creation, or at least saves jobs.

So when U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, used the "J" word in a recent press release over the payroll tax debate, the eyes of your PolitiFact Georgia scribes were glued to our computer screens.

"The latest unemployment numbers have shown that nearly 315,000 Americans have simply given up hope when it comes to finding a job," the Athens Republican’s release said. "Our economy is barely hanging on as it is, and we cannot risk losing more of our working class to job-killing tax increases."

Nearly 315,000 Americans have given up on finding work? The government tracks all sorts of jobs figures, but who keeps tabs on hopelessness?

Broun used this statistic days earlier. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor’s official keeper of the nation’s jobs data, released its November employment figures Dec. 2, he issued a press release criticizing the Obama administration.

"Today’s job report paints a clear picture of how thoroughly this Administration’s policies have failed," Broun’s release said. "While the addition of 120,000 net jobs appears to be good news, what it hides is that 315,000 Americans have now simply given up looking for work, and are no longer counted in these unemployment figures."  

We called Broun’s office for more information, but received no response during the winter break.

So we turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We discovered that our federal government does track people who despair of finding a job.

Each month, the bureau publishes a report with key labor data such as unemployment figures and the size of the workforce. It also includes a monthly count of what the bureau classifies as "discouraged workers."

These are people who want to find a job and are available to take one, but have given up because they think there are no jobs, or none for which they would qualify.

We looked at data for November 2011, the most recent numbers available when Broun issued his press release. They show that there were fewer discouraged workers than the year before, but their ranks had grown from the previous month.

There were some 1.1 million discouraged workers in November, which was down by about 186,000 from a year earlier and up about 133,000 from a month earlier.

Whether you consider discouraged workers on a year-to-year or month-to-month basis, Broun’s figure is way off the mark.  

Since Broun wasn’t available for a response, we searched the Internet for possible sources of his data. We found an Associated Press story that said that "a key reason the unemployment rate fell so much was because roughly 315,000 people had given up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed."

USA Today, National Public Radio and other news outlets posted the story or excerpts on their web sites.

We found that the size of the civilian labor force, or the number of employed and unemployed non-military workers, did shrink by 315,000 people, according to the BLS data.

But this does not mean that they dropped out of the job market because they thought they couldn’t find work, explained Gary Steinberg, a spokesman for the bureau.

Some might have left the labor force to care for a sick relative. Others might have retired. Or the working-age population might have decreased.

Broun was apparently led astray by credible news outlets, but the figure is still wrong. November’s unemployment numbers did not show that "nearly 315,000 Americans have simply given up hope when it comes to finding a job."

The ranks of discouraged workers had actually declined by about 186,000 since November 2010, and risen by about 133,000 since October. This means he’s off by hundreds of thousands of workers, no matter how you count it.

Broun earns a False.

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Our Sources

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, "Broun Votes in Favor of Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act," Dec. 13, 2011

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, "Broun Statement on November Jobs Report," Dec. 2, 2011

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The Employment Situation -- November 2011," Dec. 2, 2011

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glossary, accessed Dec. 27, 2011

Telephone interview, Gary Steinberg, spokesman, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dec. 27, 2011

National Public Radio, The Two Way blog, "Unemployment Rate Drops To 8.6 Percent; 120,000 Jobs Added," Dec. 2, 2011,

USA Today, "Unemployment rate falls to 8.6% in November," Dec. 2, 2011

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