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Want to soften the impact of a recession? Change the way unemployment is tallied.

In January, the BLS will add members of the armed forces stationed in the US to the labor force. This could drop the unemployment rate by 0.1 to 0.3 percent. By one estimate, November's jobless rate would be 10.6 percent, rather than 10.8 percent, if the BLS had included the military. A political move? Not exactly. A presidential commission recommended the change in 1979.

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The reason: The military, being voluntary, is a job alternative, and should be counted in the labor force.