Job creation slowed markedly in December, with only a dismal 74,000 jobs created last month, the worst monthly report in three years. Economists, notorious for their clouded crystal balls, had been predicting 200,000 new jobs, above the 2013 average of 182,000 per month.

They also predicted that the unemployment rate would remain steady at 7 percent. It didn’t, it fell a full three-tenths of a percent to 6.7. But that was only because the labor participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, down two-tenths. As has been happening all through the so-called recovery, improvement in the unemployment rate has been largely the result of a shrinking labor force, not a growing jobs market. The labor participation rate is the now lowest since the days of Jimmy Carter.

Unemployment in hard-hit sectors showed little if any improvement. Teenage unemployment is at 20.3 percent (raising the minimum wage would make that worse, probably much worse, as teenagers make up a very large percentage of minimum-wage workers). Black unemployment was at 11.9 percent. People unemployed for more than 27 weeks stood at 3.9 million, 37.7 percent of total unemployment, up from 37.4 percent last month.

The question is how much longer President Obama can avoid major political damage from these numbers. The “recovery” began in June 2009, according to economists. According to millions of unemployed, under-employed, and dropouts from the labor force, it has yet to begin.

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