Just How Bad Is the Employment Market?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 9, 2012

This bad:

How many people are out of work but not counted as unemployed because they hadn’t sought work in the past four weeks? Eight million. This is the sort of distressing number that turns up when you look beyond the headline number.

Here’s another one: 96,000—that’s how many new jobs were added last month, well short of the anemic 125,000 predicted by analysts, and dramatically less than the (still paltry) 139,000 the economy had been averaging in 2012.

The alarming numbers proliferate the deeper you look: 40.7% of the people counted as unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more—that’s 5.2 million “long-term” unemployed. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population since then has grown by 31 million.

We are still almost five million payrolls shy of where we were at the end of 2007, when the recession began. Think about that when you hear the Obama administration’s talk of an economic recovery.

The key indicator of our employment health, in all the statistics, is what the government calls U-6. This is the number who have applied for work in the past six months and includes people who are involuntary part-time workers—government-speak for those individuals whose jobs have been cut back to two or three days a week.

They are working part-time only because they’ve been unable to find full-time work. This involuntary army of what’s called “underutilized labor” has been hovering for months at about 15% of the workforce. Include the eight million who have simply given up looking, and the real unemployment rate is closer to 19%.

Remember that two years ago, Joe Biden promised us that we would be creating 500,000 jobs a month by now. Yet another broken pledge on the part of this administration–one that ought to drive votes towards Mitt Romney when November 6th comes around.

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