About That Jobs Report [Updated]

Last week’s jobs report was hailed by some as good news, and, with a net gain of 203,000 jobs (pending correction), it could have been worse, even with 41% of those jobs in the public sector [UPDATE: See clarification below]. But in the larger perspective, the jobs picture remains bleak. James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute provides this sobering context:

1. There are still 1.1 million fewer employed Americans today than right before the recession started, despite a potential labor force that’s 14 million larger. And there are 3.6 million fewer full-time workers than back in 2007.

2. The employment rate, the share of Americans with a job, is 58.6% — exactly where it was in November 2009.

3. If the labor force participation rate were where it was a year ago, the jobless rate would be 7.9%, not 7% (and 11.3% if the LFPR were at prerecession levels, though closer to 9% if demographics-adjusted).

This chart tells the story: awful federal policies, including Obamacare, high taxes, environmental over-regulation and more, have suppressed the normal explosion in employment that should follow the end of a recession. Instead, the United States has entered into something new in its history–a more or less permanent jobs depression:


The human toll represented by that chart is devastating: millions of Americans pretending to be disabled because they can’t find jobs, working part-time because full-time employment doesn’t exist, living in their parents’ basements, biding their time in low-value school courses as they wait for the job market to improve, living on food stamps and other welfare benefits, deferring marriage and childbearing.

Back in the heady days of 2008 and 2009, the Democrats were universally confident that the economy would improve dramatically, as it always does after a recession, regardless of the policies the Democrats followed. All they would need to do was take credit when the time came. The bitter lesson of the last five years is that federal policies do matter. The American economy is diverse and resilient, but if our government’s policies are stupid enough, they can blight the prospects of an entire generation.

UPDATE: The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts two surveys, the institutional and the household. The institutional survey is the source of the 203,000 net job increase number, all but 7,000 of which was in the private sector. The household survey, on the other hand, found that employment increased by 818,000. 338,000 of this total increase in employment was in government. The BLS said, “This over-the-month increase in employment partly reflected the return to work of furloughed federal government employees.” 338,000 is 41% of 818,000, so this is the source of the 41% number that was widely reported. That percentage is accurate as it relates to the increase in employment from October to November, but not as to the 203,000 increase in net jobs as measured by the institutional survey.

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