It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Unfortunately, the best of times happened solely in the minds of economists who had predicted another strong jobs month. Here’s Bloomberg’s preview:
“Employers probably added more than 200,000 workers to payrolls in March for a fourth straight month as US companies gained confidence sales will keep improving, economists said before a government report today. . . The pickup in jobs has propelled consumer sentiment to a four-year high, boosting the odds household spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, will keep growing.”
Such predictions led commentators like Ezra Klein to begin their morning columns with “Happy jobs day!”
Only it wasn’t. Indeed, it was the worst of times for many workers, who care little for predictions and a great deal about being employed.
Because just as bloggers and journalists had finished their morning posts and poured themselves a congratulatory second cup of coffee the jobs report was released and a their collective jaws hit the floor. The report didn’t show the 200,000 plus jobs that were expected to be added; instead it revealed a modest 120,000 job gain – one-half of the number of jobs the economy added in February.
The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer explains just how bad this is:
“First, there’s the most important number: At the moment, 12.7 million Americans are still looking for work and can’t find it. It will take a long time to put a serious dent in that figure. It would’ve taken between seven and twelve years to get back to full employment even if we were adding jobs at a 200,000-a-month pace, the number analysts had expected for March. Adding just 120,000 jobs makes the task even harder – that’s barely enough to keep up with the monthly growth in population.”
But that’s not the only bad news contained in the report.
Over at The American James Pethokoukis digs into the numbers to reveal that if the U.S. labor force were the same size it was when President Obama took office than the unemployment rate would be a whopping 10.9 percent.
We’ve shared a similar statistic before and liberals have always pointed out that the labor force participation rate has been trending lower ever since 2000 as the population gets older. But even if we take those demographic changes to be true, that would still leave the real unemployment rate at 10.5 percent.
Perhaps worse, the U-6 rate, which takes into account part-time workers who want full-time work and those who have simply given up looking for a job, remains at 14.6 percent.
As American Enterprise Scholar Aparna Mathur explained to Fox News, the gap between real and U-6 unemployment is not normal. “Usually the difference is pretty low so it’s not something people have really focused on because there hasn’t been that big of a gap,” she told Fox. “The tremendous difference in this recession has been the long-term unemployed. The labor market hasn’t really recovered at all.”
As Dickens said in a Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Sadly, what Obama has led us to is a tale of two recoveries. One is a paper recovery where the unemployment rate drops, largely because of a contracting labor force. The other, the one where real people are left searching for work, reveals a much different picture.