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The Bistromath Economy


It's been years since we visited what I call "the Bistromath economy," named after the starship Bistromath in Douglas Adams' Life, the Universe, and Everything. The ship is propelled by a faster-than-light drive, based on the non-absolute numbers found when dining at a small Italian bistro.

As Adams put it:

Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behaviour of numbers. Just as Albert Einstein's general relativity theory observed that space was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in time, and that time was not an absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in space, so it is now realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer's movement in restaurants.

Or as the ship's master, Slartibartfast, put it, "The numbers, they are awful."

The U.S. economy has been functioning, as best as anyone can tell, by bistromathics for years now.

So without further ado, here are the awful numbers.

7.3 % -- unemployment rate for October.

+0.1% -- change in unemployment since September.

2.3 million -- number of Americans "marginally attached" to the labor force.

-720,000 -- change in civilian labor force in October.

815,000 -- number of discouraged workers in October.

62.8% -- labor force participation rate.

-0.4% -- change since September.

13.8% -- underemployment rate (U-6) in October.