A newspaper headline one day reads: U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Point in Three Years. The next day another reads Job Outlook Poor for Recent Graduates. The articles each support their headlines with what appears to be official data from reliable sources, but the official data seems to lead to opposite conclusions about what’s happening in the job market. How is this possible? How is the average reader supposed to know which news item paints the correct picture?
Answering these questions requires readers to think critically as well as have a bit of background information on the different types of official employment data that is collected in the United States.
Laura LeDuc, Cooley’s Associate Dean for Planning, Assessment and Accreditation, has published a Layperson’s Guide to Legal Employment Data, highlighting how the two main sources of legal employment data—government data and non-government data—are collected, analyzed and used. You can use her guide to learn about each type of data and learn about some common pitfalls in data reporting. You can explore why there is so much contradiction and confusion, and why there are so many misleading conclusions in the headlines we read today.