According to a recent Washington Post story,
The proportion of Americans in their prime working years who have jobs is smaller than it has been at any time in the 23 years before the recession, according to federal statistics, reflecting the profound and lasting effects that the downturn has had on the nation’s economic prospects.
By this measure, the jobs situation has improved little in recent years. The percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 54 who have jobs now stands at 75.7 percent, just a percentage point over what it was at the downturn’s worst, according to federal statistics.
Before the recession the proportion hovered at 80 percent.
While the unemployment rate may be the most closely watched gauge of the economy in the presidential campaign, this measure of prime-age workers captures more of the ongoing turbulence in the job market. It reflects “missing workers” who have stopped looking for work and aren’t included in the unemployment rate.
During their prime years, Americans are supposed to be building careers and wealth to prepare for their retirement. Instead, as the indicator reveals, huge numbers are on the sidelines.
“What it shows is that we are still near the bottom of a very big hole that opened in the recession,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.
The Post story goes on to point out that the percentage of prime-age men who are working is smaller now than it has been in any time before the recession, going all the way back to 1948, while the proportion of prime-age women is at a low not seen since 1988. A 50-year-old heating and AC technician from Alexandria, Virginia, was out of work in 2009 but found a job right away. He was laid off again about six months ago and, standing outside the Alexandria unemployment office, said it seems harder this time around.
The monthly jobs report, released on the first Friday of every month, came out at 8:30 this morning, and it isn’t pretty. While the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.1 percent, that was largely because people dropped out of the workforce rather than people finding jobs. The broader measure of unemployment, which counts people in part-time jobs who would rather work full-time, remains at a dismal 14.5 percent. The percentage of the population in the workforce dropped to a 30-year low at 64.3 percent, as 522,000 people left the labor force.
Only 115,000 new jobs were created last month (130,000 in the private sector, while government lost 15,000 jobs) and, thanks to population growth, the country needs 125,000 new jobs a month just to keep the unemployment rate steady.
Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales fell 7.1 percent from February. The March figures for home sales were the lowest in four months. Today, we learned that new orders for manufactured durable goods in March decreased $8.8 billion — or 4.2 percent — to $202.6 billion. And this comes after a jobs report that showed in March we produced only 120,000 new jobs, as more and more people continued to drop out of the labor force.
As this McClatchy Newspaper story puts it:
Rather than a breakout surge in economic growth, mainstream forecasters say, Americans should expect the U.S. economy to slog forward for another couple of years.
The economy grew at a subpar annual rate of 1.7 percent last year, down from 3 percent the year before. The consensus forecast for this year now is for growth of 2 to 2.5 percent.
The U.S. economy is expected to slow later this year… A spate of recent indicators punctuated fears that the economy is stalling. March delivered only 120,000 new jobs, and the latest manufacturing and real estate data softened.
The president is having a hard time rounding up the support of young people to generate enthusiasm and votes for his reelection campaign, no doubt because this time around, he’s forced to run on his record, verses vague promises of “hope” and “change.” In 2008, young voters constituted a full fifth of his support, but this time around less than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 plan to vote in November and only 40 percent are even registered to do so currently. Young Americans certainly have more time on their hands this time around, with 1 in 2 new graduates unemployed or underemployed in jobs that don’t utilize their education background. Too bad for Obama that it doesn’t seem they will be using that time to campaign for another four years of his economy.
How has the president tried to get on the good side of young voters? This week Obama and Biden have made tours of colleges in swing states touting a plan to prevent a doubling of interest rates for students who take out federally funded Stafford loans (despite not even bothering to be present for the 2007 vote). The plan wouldn’t help Americans already paying off student loans, nor would it help those who took loans from private institutions. How many students will this plan actually help? Very few. Like many other lofty presidential plans, however, the most important part is merely the optics – actual results are just a bonus. I’ve written previously on the $1 trillion student loan bubble, and unfortunately, the program being touted by the White House will probably do more harm than good.
Reuters takes a look at the status of President Obama’s signature “green jobs” push, which the administration has already pumped billions into, and finds some dismal results:
But the millions of “green jobs” Obama promised have been slow to sprout, disappointing many who had hoped that the $90 billion earmarked for clean-energy efforts in the recession-fighting federal stimulus package would ease unemployment – still above 8 percent in March.
Supporters say the administration overpromised on the jobs front and worry that a backlash could undermine support for clean-energy policies in general. …
A $500 million job-training program has so far helped fewer than 20,000 people find work, far short of its goal. …
Gains in the sector don’t necessarily lead to wider employment.
The wind industry, for example, has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009 even as the energy capacity of wind farms has nearly doubled, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has added 75,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to Labor Department statistics.
Mitt Romney said yesterday that women lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost under the Obama administration, a claim that earned the suspicious distinction of “true but false” from the Washington Post fact-check team. The reason for this contradictory finding? While WaPo conceded the statistic was mathematically accurate, they added the odd, squishy disclaimer that it “may simply [be] a function of a coincidence of timing — a brief blip that could have little to do with ‘Obama’s job market.’”
But while it might be unfair to say Obama’s policies are fully responsible for the disproportionate impact the recession has had on women, there’s no denying that fact that women have been hit hardest. Even WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes this in his analysis:
In other words, men did lose more jobs in the recession. Now that the economy is growing again, men are recovering jobs at a faster pace than women. In fact, the latest employment report shows that male participation in the work force was up 14,000 while female participation fell 177,000, in part because women tend to work in retail or government jobs (such as teaching), which have been cut in recent months.
In yet another sign of economic improvement, the latest jobs report showed that the U.S. added 227,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. The Hill reports that employment numbers from previous months have also been revised up:
The number is slightly better than expected and represents the third straight month the economy added more than 200,000 jobs. That’s good news for President Obama, who has seen his reelection chances improve with the better labor market.
The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised figures for December and January up from 203,000 to 223,000, and from 243,00 to 284,000, respectively.
The Department of Labor releases the unemployment figures tomorrow morning. But here is a noteworthy economic finding. Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January. The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January is the largest such month-to-month change Gallup has recorded in its not-seasonally adjusted measure since December 2010.
There’s more. In addition to the 9.1 percent of workers who are unemployed, 10.0 percent are working part time but want full-time work. (This percentage is higher than the 9.6 percent of February 2011.) As a result, in February Gallup’s underemployment measure, which combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed and the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, increased to 19.1 — or almost one in five people.