Don't believe what you saw in the papers last week. The unemployment rate in this country really isn't 8.3 percent. It couldn't be that high in this booming summer of 2012. You might remember something called the Stimulus Package, passed by a Democratic Congress and proudly signed into law by a Democratic president in 2009. It was bound to create enough jobs in 2010 and 2011 to drive the unemployment rate down somewhere south of 6 percent. The administration's experts said so. All these news stories about unemployment climbing to 8.3 percent? They must be typographical errors.
If only they were. For 41 straight months now - forty-one straight months - the country's unemployment rate has stayed at or above 8 percent. It's enough to make the Carter administration's performance, at least where unemployment is concerned, look good - malaise and all.
But don't you worry your pretty little head about all that. No matter what the headlines said last week, the unemployment rate really wasn't 8.3 percent.
It was actually only 8.254 percent.
That's the word from this president's top economic adviser, Alan Krueger. (This administration keeps changing top economic advisers. And for good reason. Failure doesn't exactly guarantee job security.) Dr. Krueger posted the real, genuine jobless rate, and an explanation for it, on the White House website. You see, it was all just a rounding problem. A math thing. A few clicks the other way, and the press might have been reporting that unemployment was standing pat at 8.2 percent. Which would've been great news! Well, at least not as bad news. Or at least the same news, which of course isn't news at all.
Dr. Krueger, the latest chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, noted that honchos at the aforementioned Bureau of Labor Statistics said the unemployment rate remained "essentially unchanged" from June to July. Then he added: "While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression."
Wheeee! Break out the champagne. But if this is a recovery, what would a relapse look like?
Meanwhile, the same week the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers was putting his thoughts on the White House's website, and clearing up the whole 8.254/8.3 unemployment business, this paper reported that Invista was planning to cut 80 jobs at its Chattanooga plant and Pep Boys, the auto parts retail chain, closed its longtime Brainerd Road store.
No need to worry. We'll just tell all those workers being laid off they're the victims of a rounding error. That should take care of everything. Just listen to the president's chief economic adviser. He can explain it. We wouldn't be surprised if he could explain anything. However improbable.