John Barrette

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July 27, 2013
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Carson Perspective: Take 'gummit' stats with a grain of Twain

That Clemens guy, whose time in these parts left an imprint, was a clever prevaricator.

No, not Carson City’s Orion Clemens, the first and only secretary of Nevada Territory; we’re talking Sam Clemens, Orion’s younger brother. Samuel prevaricated his way into a boffo writing and lecture circuit career using the nom de plume Mark Twain. Even his pen name was fiction based on fact.

Mark Twain was lingo on paddle-wheel river boats used to call out depths of the muddy Mississippi, which is where young Sam worked as a sternwheeler pilot before coming west.

Twain later attributed the phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics” to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, but no record ever was found that Disraeli used or wrote that in naming the well-known three kinds of lies. So when Clemens blamed it on Disraeli, some figured Sam coined the phrase himself and pinned it on a handy political hobgoblin.

Enough setup; now to the point: Carson City’s job picture ain’t in the pink, but it ain’t a blue baby either.

Lies and damned lies aside, statistics regarding capital city unemployment are mostly, if not completely, meaningless. That’s despite it being the worst of the worst in a state still buffeted a bit by the recession’s lingering aftermath.

The city’s latest jobless rate was 10.1 percent.

It had been 10.1 percent in April, dropped to 9.5 percent in May and zoomed back to 10.1 percent in June, according to numbers released last week. Sounds stark, and any one job lost makes it just so for the person involved. What those rates disclose in spades, however, is the smallness of the sample size. So consider some mitigating factors that make such stats a bit less stark.

Carson City is a “gummit” town. Most taxpayers want state and local government employment ranks lean. Which do you want? More jobs or less of a tax bite?

The Legislature ended in early June. See above paragraph’s final sentence and repeat your answer.

Las Vegans want to cut the north to ribbons (and take all the water). How many jobs exited Western Nevada College and state government here in recent years?

Here’s a parlor game for you: Brainstorm other reasons the capital’s jobless ranks are a bit higher than elsewhere in Nevada. The above trio doesn’t cover them all.

But jobs are coming to Carson City — in the private sector. An example: word has reached these precincts the retail tenant coming into Carson Mall is Sportsman’s Warehouse, not the Sports Authority. But the Utah-based camping-hunting-fishing outfitter didn’t reply last week to questions on that score.

Whichever retailer comes, however, it must have employees.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 30, 2013 12:36PM Published Jul 27, 2013 11:55PM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.