If the same percentage of adults were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.1 percent. If the percentage was where it was when George W. Bush took office, the unemployment rate would be 13.2 percent.Ezra Klein • Remarking on declining labor force participation in the US. It’s often noted that official unemployment numbers understate the real percentage of people out of work, as they only tally people actively searching for a job. One consequence of this is that when labor force participation decreases—that is, when unemployed folks just give up and stop looking for work—employment actually “increases.” That’s why only 115,000 jobs were added last month, yet unemployment decreased from 8.2% to 8.1%. Since Barack Obama took office, labor force participation has declined 2%. It’s now at 63.6% which, Klein notes, is “a level not seen since the early days of the Reagan administration.” Here’s a chart. source (via • follow)
» As goes the country, so go the states: Or maybe it’s the other way around? Well, either way, figures released today by the Department of Labor show that unemployment, in addition to falling to its lowest level in two and a half years at the national level, also decreased on a state-by-state basis in all but seven states. This is promising, as it suggests that the uptick in employment is a nationwide trend, and not the result of, say, five or ten states doing abnormally well for one reason or another. Note: The usual disclaimers about the problems with how unemployment is calculated apply.
» However: Don’t get too excited, guys. While the heavily-fluctuating number is certainly better than it’s been in a long time (and the unemployment number is at its lowest level in a long time), the comeback is far from here. Example: During the financial crisis, the U.S. lost roughly 8.8 million jobs; less than a third of those jobs have returned. On top of this, many are still unemployed, and their benefits could run out soon if Congress does not act on the extension for unemployment benefits. Yeah, sorry we have to be such downers, but let’s look in perspective here.
» Political ramifications: The jobs numbers aren’t at a point where people have reason to be dancing in the streets, but cautious optimism is the name of the game. The GOP’s election platform could waver if the numbers get any better. Hence this response from House speaker John Boehner: ”Any job creation is welcome news, but the jobless rate in this country is still unacceptable.” What do you all think?