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The Real Jobs Number to Worry About

By Columns

It was hard to drum up excitement over Friday's jobs report. Nobody seemed too excited that the jobless rate had risen. Congress had already left for a five-week summer vacation.  The President was out campaigning in Ohio.  Sure the markets staged a big rally, but that probably had more to do with traders' expectations that the report might encourage more stimulus dollars from the Fed.  In short, 8.3% unemployment has become the new norm. After all, we've had 42 months now of joblessness above eight percent. It's routine. Usual. Taken for granted.   But it shouldn't be. Mass unemployment like we have right now should be galvanizing our leaders, not putting them to sleep. You think it's not a problem? Consider these numbers from this morning's report:  The real unemployment rate rose to 15% from 14.9%.  That's the proportion of people who aren't working, aren't looking or can't find a full-time job -- more than one in ten. Then there’s this. The labor market participation rate is stuck at a 30-year low. You have to go back to 1982 to find a year when the number of folks working is so low.  In between though, our population has risen by 34%.  That's not good news. In fact, it's probably safe to say that it’s a tragedy.  Even the number that grabbed headlines - the fact that 163,000 jobs were added in July is fundamentally unimpressive. Look, 163,000 jobs is a rounding error in a $15 trillion economy.   In a country with 310 million people, 163,000 is a measly 5 hundredths of a percent.   In George Bush's administration, unemployment hit a low of 4.4% in May 2007. Nearly half of our level.   And in September 1983 of the Reagan administration, the total jobs added was over a million!! In one month!   So far this year, we have only added 1.06 million jobs, but it took seven months to get there. We have a jobs crisis in this country - a crisis that will set some Americans back for the rest of their lives. For some it is a life altering event. One that will never be forgotten.  It's not time for campaigning or celebrating. It's time for focusing on the problem at hand and fixing it. 

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