published Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

A strengthening economy

The latest report on declining joblessness and unemployment in January was unambiguously good news. The nation's unemployment level fell again, to 8.3 percent, marking a third straight month of decline, and dropping to the lowest point since January 2009. And the number of net new jobs rose to 243,000 after subtracting continuing job cuts by government at all levels. The job gain brought the total number of new jobs under the Obama administration to around 3.7 million.

Those are all good figures. The fact that they follow a generally rising trend in new jobs and a steadily declining level unemployment was even better because the figures came without the usual caveat that jobless levels masked another round of people dropping out of the work force in despair.

Indeed, the Labor Department's latest figures, including significant upward adjustments to the previously reported totals of new jobs in November and December, suggested that the rising economy is finally on a generally sustainable trend.

That said, the economy will not soon achieve what most economists, and probably most Americans, think of as full employment -- unemployment rates of about 4 percent, and the availability of jobs for people who really try to find work. Given rising population and demographic trends, that won't happen, at the current growth rate of just under 2 percent, for another six or seven years.

Thus the political take on job growth will remain combative throughout the coming presidential campaign season. President Obama can justifiably argue that his administration's job stimulus and job growth policies are on track, though they still need constant support. Mitt Romney, or whomever the GOP makes its presidential nominee, of course will continue to claim that it's Obama's fault that the economy has not grown fast enough to supply enough new jobs for all those who want them. It's hard to believe, however, that Republicans' policies for austerity -- more government job cuts, higher interest rates and slashing federal grants to states -- would not harm the economy and nip recovery in the bud.

The current unemployment dilemma demands more than the GOP recipe. The Labor Department reports that the total number of unemployed, though shrinking, remains at 12.8 million; 43 percent, or 5.5 million, have been out of work for more than six months. Underemployment as of January also leaves another 8.2 million people still working part-time when they actually want full-time jobs.

These numbers suggest a deep well of Americans who will find current unemployment intolerable until they can find decent jobs that fit their skills. Yet given current choices, more Americans now say they trust Obama's economic policies more than the Republicans' proposals. Obama's stimulus and job-growth plans would have performed better if Republicans had supported them rather than slashing and trashing them. Regardless, they did help stabilize the economy from the free-fall it was in -- i.e., 700,000 jobs were lost in a single month at the bottom of the trough that destroyed eight million jobs -- due to financial implosion when he took office.

Rebuilding from the Great Recession was destined to be a decade-long task. Intervening shocks -- the BP oil spill, the Japanese tsunami/nuclear crisis that disabled the supplier train of electronics and computer chips to western economies, the Greek bailout and ensuing crisis among American trade partners in the euro-zone economies -- have made recovery harder. So has the deadly drain of offshoring manufacturing and white collar jobs to Asia.

Given all these obstacles, plus Republican attempts to sabotage recovery for partisan reasons, the current progress is better that might have been expected. With fair support for a change, and no unexpected surprises overseas, progress toward a recovery actually could strengthen.

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These job numbers are some of the most misleading numbers in our economic reports. Refusing to count people who are unemployed because they have given up looking does not magically grant them employment. The real unemployment rate is around %15 if you count those who have given up looking.

Shouldn't the welfare roles decline as the unemployment numbers go down? The welfare roles are growing as is the number of unemployed americans ruined by Obama's failed socialist experiments. OR, maybe we just misunderstand how the success of his policies is truly measured. It seems those relying upon social programs is booming. A true victory in socialist minds like Obama's.

February 7, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.
conservative said...

Want to reduce unemployment? Well just reduce the number in the labor force.

From the very Lieberal NPR: "the big 0.5 percent drop in the unemployment rate was mostly due to potential workers leaving the labor force. If people become encouraged that there is work to be found, and start returning to the job market, the unemployment rate is either going to stall or increase. So, the high-fives for Team Obama in February might be headaches in October.

February 7, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.
acerigger said...

FlyingPurpleSheepleEater said..."Shouldn't the welfare roles decline as the unemployment numbers go down?"

Not when you've got Walmart,et-al paying sub-standard wages that qualify people for food stamps!

Why should taxpayers subsidize the "biggest employer in the world"?

February 8, 2012 at 1:46 a.m.
tipper said...

If the U.S. economy can get past the European debacles and it continues to improve, conservatives and the GOP will be the minority party in the White House and Congress. You can crunch the numbers any way you want, but if the economy is on the upswing in October, the course will be stayed. Besides, I have seen nothing from any Republican candidate or the party that provides any concrete solutions. Social issues, the "cultural war," and obstruction won't put money in workers' and the middle class's pockets. If you add up the present administration's successes and compare them to say George W. Bush's reign, there is no contest. And by the way, why aren't Republican candidates eagerly courting Bush's endorsement? As far back as I can remember, this is the first time I've seen a political party run so far away from the previous president's support.

February 8, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.

I don't feel sorry for anyone that works at Wal-mart. They, like I chose their employment. I applied and won a job just as they did. No one is forcing them to work at Wal-mart. What if minimum wage goes up and they get a base $15 per hour or $20? Who do you think is going to pick up the tab for that stupidity? Working men and women always pay for any steaming pile of social stupidity that vote peddling politicians can leave laying in the bowl. We will pay no matter what.

February 8, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.

Right.. You do know that Obama's approval rating has dipped far lower than your hated enemy GWB's ever did right? Where are all of these successes that you are touting? I am not supporting the republican party. They are the same party as the democrat party. They are both working to destroy this country. I support constitutionalists and men who love and defend this country and the freedom it was founded upon. The economy is shot and will crash horribly at some point in the future. There is no way to stop it at this point. The federal govt is saddling our children and grandchildren with a lifetime of pain and suffering. Most Americans are standing idly by and letting it happen.

February 8, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.
acerigger said...

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 2/2-5. Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (Obama trendlines 1/26-29, all others 1/19-22): FAVORABLE UNFAVORABLE NET CHANGE PRESIDENT OBAMA 50 (48) 46 (47) 3 APPROVE DISAPPROVE NET CHANGE PRESIDENT OBAMA 48 (47) 48 (49) 2 NANCY PELOSI 29 (27) 56 (57) 3 JOHN BOEHNER 26 (26) 52 (47) -5 CONGRESSIONAL DEMS 33 (32) 58 (58) 1 CONGRESSIONAL GOP 25 (26) 67 (63) -5 Bouyed, it would seem, by an improving economic picture, Barack Obama's job approval rating now stands at an even 48-48.

February 8, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.


February 9, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
holdout said...

Whether the recovery is real or imagined there is the nagging problem of oil prices spiking again. The last estimate I heard was that gas would be around $4.50 per gallon by April. If the recovery is real this will destroy it. If it is imagined this will cause the crash just that much sooner.

February 9, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.
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