If there's one thing we've learned about Barack Obama, it's that he's the guy you want delivering bad news. By the time he's done explaining a bad situation, he can have us believing it was actually a lucky break.
"I'm sorry to tell you that your car was stolen, but just think of the fresh air and exercise you'll get when you're walking six miles to work tomorrow!"
That's the way Obama spun the latest jobs report, which only an incumbent president could profess to love. "Today we learned that after losing around 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, business once again added jobs for the 30th month in a row, a total of 4.6 million jobs,'' Obama beamed.
Maybe we were all supposed to cheer and applaud at that point, as if we believed every word of it, and not look too closely at the numbers being thrown around. The actual number of new jobs added to this still-sputtering economy last month was only 96,000 compared to the 125,000 that ever-hopeful analysts had predicted. At this rate, the great recovery sounds more like a lingering recession.
But to hear Barack Obama tell it, Happy Days Are Here Again! It just doesn't feel like it for some reason. Mainly because they aren't.
To borrow a line from Herbert Hoover, prosperity is just around the corner. All that's needed is a few more bailouts, Solyndra deals, another dose of crony capitalism, and more stimulus packages that somehow never stimulate. And no matter what numbers result, this president can cite them selectively enough to show that the economy is making great strides. Even if it's still stumbling. Or even falling backward. He's very good at talking about jobs. Much better than he is at creating them.
Back in 2009, this same president and his hot-shot team of economic advisers assured us they would hold the unemployment rate below 8 percent - even have it down to 5.4 percent by now.
Don't you love the to-the-decimalpoint precision of such forecasts/wild guesses? They give a bald and unconvincing narrative the sound of credibility. Alas, only the sound, not the substance.
If his administration's assurances had panned out, as the president's opponent this election year was quick to note, there would be nine million more Americans with jobs now. Instead, the country has more than 12 million unemployed, and at least as many who are under-employed, which is the term for those who'd like a full-time job, but who can find only part-time work in this anemic economy. Including the under-employed and those who've given up looking for work, the current unemployment rate is actually 14.7 percent.
Last week's jobs report also revealed that hourly pay fell, and that manufacturers cut the most jobs in two years. Tuesday's report from the Labor Department was bad news, too. Job openings in July, the latest monthly totals available, were down from June, and June's had to be revised downward.
The only reason the country's jobless rate has fallen from 8.3 to 8.1 percent is that 368,000 Americans gave up the job search altogether. Which brought the percentage of the country's working age population in the labor force down to 63.5 percent, the lowest since 1981.
The numbers behind the numbers are even sadder. Eight million Americans are still out of work but aren't considered officially unemployed because they've given up on looking for work during the past month.
Of those Americans counted as unemployed, more than 40 percent have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Their official classification: Long-Term Unemployed. They number more than five million.
The country's population has grown by 31 million since April of 2000, but there are now fewer of us working. As for those of us who do have job, annual pay increases now average 1.6 percent - the lowest level in 30 years. If you factor in inflation, wages are actually shrinking.
In sum, this isn't exactly a sterling record of job creation the president is touting on the campaign trail. But relax, this latest unemployment report only sounds like bad news. Everything is really coming up roses. They only look like the same rank weeds.