“In 2012, employment growth averaged 153,000 per month, the same as the average monthly gain for 2011.” — Bureau of Labor Statistics

That sentence tells you all you need to know about the state of the U.S. economy.

We’re not in a Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold economy. It’s more like a stale bowl of Goldilocks mush, considering the total 23 million unemployed or underemployed in a U.S. economy barely growing at around 1.8% annually. 

We’re in an economic era of falling expectations.

The broader jobless rate that counts discouraged workers was stuck at 14.4%. There are now more than four million fewer jobs out there than when President Barack Obama first took office in 2008.

Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted median income continues to drop, due to weak dollar policies. Median incomes increased in the sound-dollar Reagan and Clinton administrations, but notably dropped during the weak-money policies of the Carter, Bush and Obama administrations

Highlights from the December 2012 employment report, thanks to analysis from James Farrell, FOX News analyst:

  • Unemployment rates for African Americans at 14% - up 0.8 percentage points from November 2012 and teenagers at 23.5% – down 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 - are still really high.  
  • The November 2012 unemployment rate was adjusted up (from 7.7% to 7.8%) - that is why the government is reporting that the unemployment rate “remained unchanged” while others not used to confusing government data manipulations understandably think it went up from last month.
  • Labor force participation is lower today versus when President Obama took office and recovery began. If the labor force participation rate was the same in December 2012 as it was when President Obama took office (65.7%), then the December 2012 unemployment rate would have been 10.73%.
  • Long-term unemployed: The number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) was 4.77 million in December 2012, the lowest it has been since June 2009 (4.37 million). The number of long-term unemployed peaked in April 2010 at 6.73 million.
  • If the 6.750 million people who are not in the labor force but say they actually want a job suddenly started looking for work, they would be counted in the unemployment rate and that rate would have been 11.68% in December.
  • The importance of education: Just 72.9% of all people 25 years or older with a college degree or higher had a job in December 2012. Only 39.8% of people 25 years of age or older who do not have a high school diploma had a job in December 2012.   

Year    % of Population 25 or Older without HS Diploma but with a Job
1992               36.5
1993               35.9
1994               36
1995               36.4
1996               37.5
1997               38.8
1998               39.7
1999               39.9
2000               40.8
2001               40.8
2002               40.6
2003               41
2004               41.3
2005               42
2006               43.2
2007               43.3
2008               42.4
2009               39.7
2010               39.4
2011               39.7
2012               39.9

  • Involuntary part-time employment: The number of people who wanted full-time employment, but only worked part-time (either could only find a part-time job or hours were reduced to part-time due to work conditions) declined by 220,000 to 7.92 million.  

Final point: Intuit’s Small Business Revenue Index shows small businesses are in recession. Small business sales have been on a continuous downturn since January of last year. Small businesses of all stripes averaged sales declines for nine straight months, Intuit says.

Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007.
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.