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A Jobs Report That Defies Description

The political class has already exhausted the adjectives describing today’s bleak/horrible/awful/God-awful/dismal/terrible/absolutely flat out terrible jobs report. The new data showed, among other things, the unemployment rate increasing to 9.2 percent from 9.1 percent even as the labor force got smaller (by more than a quarter-of-a-million people). That is an amazing and alarming phenomenon, since it demonstrates that unemployment has gone up even as the pool of workers shrinks.

The real unemployment rate increased as well, from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent. There are now more than 14 million Americans out of work, with 6.3 million out of work for 27 weeks or longer. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent during every month Obama has been president. Only 18,000 jobs were created in June. The government revised April and May’s payrolls downward by 44,000. Average hourly earnings went down while the average time it takes to find a job went up.

There was not a single bit of good news in the Bureau of Labor report. And watching President Obama this morning try to explain this mess and offer solutions to our predicament was painful. He was reduced to listing as one of his policy recommendations streamlining the patent process. That underscores just how intellectually exhausted the Obama presidency is. They have no more arrows left in their public policy quiver.

The president is in quite a bind, then, and today’s developments are a wicked political blow. We’ve now had 29 months of (more or less) dismal jobs reports during the Obama era; there are only 15 monthly jobs reports left between now and 2012. And there’s not only no sign that things will get significantly better; things are actually getting worse (unemployment was 8.8 percent in March). Austan Goolsbee, one of President Obama’s top economic advisers, believes that if things bounce just the right way, we’ll see an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2012. That’s higher than when Obama took office and will hardly be a source of comfort to the public. And remember: No president since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election with an unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent other than Ronald Reagan.

But of course the problem isn’t simply the anemic recovery and high unemployment; it is, as I’ve argued before, the broader belief that America is on a road toward decline and mediocrity, that our best days are behind us, and that our progeny face a less hopeful future than we did.

This is very corrosive stuff for an American president. And with every passing month, it seems, the news gets worse, our decline seems to accelerate, and the impotence and incompetence of the Obama presidency grows.