The Unbearable Rightness of Being

I always tell Malia and Sasha, look, you guys, I don't worry about you. I mean, I worry the way parents worry, but they’re on a path that is going to be successful, even if the country as a whole is not successful.” — President Barack Obama, November 2011

Finally, a positive jobs report the country hasn’t seen since 2009. So, is this validation for the Obama Administration adding the equivalent of two Russias in deficit spending?

Think again.

"We've lost our ambition, our -- our imagination, and -- and -- our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.” — President Obama, October 2011

Yes it sure sounds like good news from the Labor Dept., which announced that the unemployment rate fell to 8.5% last month, the lowest since March 2009, and that the economy added 200,000 new jobs in November. The trend is positive. December was the sixth month in a row in which the U.S. added at least 100,000 jobs.

But unscramble the eggs from this report, and you’ll find the caveats.

The U.S. added 1.64 million jobs to the economy last year, and yes, that's the most in a number of years.

But the 2011 monthly average of job creation is still at 137,000. It would take at least the next three years, and job creation of at least 360,000 jobs each month, to drive the unemployment rate down below 7.4%, the Maginot Line at which Presidents are re-elected.

The unemployment rate among college students is 23%; among African American men, 15.8%.The underemployed and the unemployed now stand at 20 million, or 15.6%.  A huge 13.1 million people are still unemployed, with 43% of them having been out of work for more than six months.

About 120,000 people dropped out of the labor force in November. The labor force is only 7% bigger than it was ten years ago.

The unemployment rate would be about 10.5% if the size of the workforce were the same as when President Obama was elected. So the trend of the jobless rate going down is good, the trend of people dropping out is not good. Meanwhile, our war veterans are coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“That’s why the American Recovery & Reinvestment Plan won’t just throw money at our problems, we’ll invest in what works.” — President Obama, January 2009, before green energy companies like Solyndra got federal money and failed.

Many of the jobs added were in transport and retail for the holiday season, some 50,000 in transport and warehousing, and about 28,000 in retail. Those are seasonal, temporary jobs that don’t pay well, and history shows the Labor Department tries mightily to adjust for seasonality, but it's been known to miss the mark with its adjustments.

Meanwhile, manufacturing job creation remains moribund, and state and local governments cut 20,000 jobs in the public sector.

"Our stimulus plan will likely save or create three to four million jobs, 90% of these jobs will be created in the private sector." — President Obama, January 2009

The U.S. lost 8.8 million jobs in the financial crackup, which truly was an historic event. The country has regained just 28% of the 8.8 million jobs lost--a far cry from the up to four million promised from spending $800 billion or so of your tax dollars on the President's stimulus plan.

“I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." — President Obama, June 2008