On the eve of a Labor Day that will mark the unofficial launching place of his 2012 re-election campaign, on the eve of an address to Congress that could be the most important of his presidency, there is no good economic news for Barack Obama.
The US economy has stalled,
A net total of zero jobs were added in the month of August, for which economic data was released Friday morning.
In addition, Friday’s report revealed, the number of hours worked by the average American has begun to decline.
And hourly earnings have dropped.
So even if Americans are employed, they are working less and making less.
“These numbers, with no net job creation at all—and 14 million people officially unemployed—show that the economy is dead in the water.” says Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future.
But that’s not the scariest part of the story.
While the official unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent—almost twice the level that former US Senator Hubert Humphrey and former US Congressman Gus Hawkins identified as a unacceptable when they were pushing their Humphrey-Hawkins full-employment bill in the 1970s—the real rate continues to grow worse.
The broad measure of unemployment—the Department of Labor’s U-6 figure, which includes the long-term unemployed and under-employed—rose to 16.2 percent (from 16.1 percent in July). That’s the highest level this year.
The 16.2 percent figure is, by any honest measure, the real unemployment rate. And it is ticking upward.
How big a failure are we talking about?
Consider these facts:
The number of employed Americans in the summer of 2011 was 139,296,000.
The number of employed Americans in summer of 2004 was 139,556,000.
So there are 260,000 fewer people working today than when George Bush was in his first term as president. Yet, the US population grew during the period from 2004 to 2011 by almost 20 million—from 292,892,000 in July 2004 to 312,150,000 today.
Tens of millions of Americans who have stopped looking for work, who never had work or who are severely underemployed live in the shadows—unreflected in the official figures. “Long-term unemployment remains at record levels, and 25 million Americans who want work can’t get full-time jobs,” says National Employment Law Project director Christine Owens. “Midlife job losers fear they’ll never work again, while young people yearn for any start. Economic growth has barely dented the yawning jobs deficit, and those jobs we are adding are largely low-wage. Earnings are stagnant for most workers and have fallen for the lowest-paid.”