While President Barack Obama’s push for war against Syria is dominating headlines and television news, the jobs numbers for August posted on Friday were nothing short of disappointing, despite the economy adding 169,000 jobs last month and the employment rate dropping by one-tenth of a percent (emphasis added):
If you only looked at the headlines on Friday’s August jobs numbers, you’d think “Not bad!”
You would also be completely wrong.
Yes, the unemployment rate fell a notch to 7.3 percent, from 7.4 percent in July. Yes, the nation added 169,000 jobs, broadly consistent with the pattern of recent months.
But in almost all the particulars, you can find signs that this job market is weaker than it appeared just a few months ago, and maybe getting worse. The drop in the unemployment rate was caused by 312,000 people dropping out of the labor force. The number of people actually reporting having a job actually fell by 115,000 in the survey on which the unemployment rate is based.
And while the overall August jobs number was okay, the Labor Department revised down its estimates of June and July job creation by a combined 74,000 positions. In other words, through the summer, hiring has been quite a bit shakier than it had appeared.
There is some good news, however. The trend of employers hiring predominately part-time jobs ended in August. Through July, based on statistics before this most recent report, nearly 77% of the jobs created in 2013 were part-time.
While that is indeed encouraging, The New York Times notes that there are “7.9 million Americans who wanted to work full time but could find only part-time work.” There are other concerning points about the jobs report, one of which is the 90.4 million Americans over the age of 16 who are not in the labor force. That number is up by 9.96 million since President Obama took office in January 2009. And the percentage of Americans who have a job — 58.6% — is also lower the 60.6% in when President Obama entered the White House.
James Pethokoukis notes that if the economy produced 169,000 jobs per month, it would take nearly 10 years to return to pre-recession employment levels. He also points that if missing workers, those who’ve given up looking for a job, were factored back into the labor picture, the unemployment rate would be 9.5%.
Needless to say, the economy is still struggling to gain momentum and there’s no telling when Americans can expect to see it turn a corner.