The Real Unemployment Rate Isn't The Same As The Official One

By Matthew Sheffield | April 9, 2012 | 3:32pm EDT

"Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," said Alan Kreuger, Chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers today.

Or was it last month?

Or the month before that?

Or the month before that?

Answer: All of the above.

It seems, no matter what the monthly employment numbers actually show, the administration will insist that they are further evidence the economy is healing from the recession.

Try telling that to the 5.5 million Americans who have given up looking for work since Obama became president, because the economic recovery trumped by the administration simply isn't creating enough jobs, and hasn't been since the alleged recovery began.

The latest employment report is a mixed bag of mostly bad news. Yes, 120,000 new jobs were created, but that's not near enough. Even the Obama-protective media can't really spin it.

Oh, sure, MSNBC slathered its initial news brief with the bland-but-upbeat headline, “Economy adds 120,000 jobs, unemployment dips,” - but even MSNBC, which usually functions as an arm of the Obama re-election campaign, had to admit in its more-complete report that, “the nation's unemployment rate dipped slightly in March, but the economy's job-creating engine slowed, raising concerns about the strength of the recovery.”

MSNBC's report went on to note that the economy has lost about 5.3 million jobs since the start of the 2007-09 recession and, at the recent pace of job growth, “those jobs will not be recouped before early 2014.”

That would mean that it would take five years of the Obama “recovery” to recoup the jobs lost during the recession – and of course that would not be enough jobs given the growing population.

Today's employment numbers are, in fact, so bad that the major media can't ignore the obvious: The unemployment rate only “dipped” to 8.2 percent because more Americans stopped looking for a job.

The Associated Press' take on it: “The U.S. job market slowed in March as companies hit the brakes on hiring amid uncertainty about the economy's growth prospects. The unemployment rate dipped, but mostly because more Americans stopped looking for work.”

As American Enterprise Institute economics blogger James Pethokoukis puts it, "the real unemployment rate sure ain’t 8.2 percent."

If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office (65.7% then vs. 63.8% today), the unemployment rate would be 10.9 percent, Pethokoukis reports.

The official unemployment tally only includes those seeking work. The weak Obama recovery, ironically, has helped push the “official” unemployment rate down because more than 5 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force. If a few million more Americans give up their job search before the November election, the unemployment rate could well drop below 8 percent.

The Associated Press story on today's numbers points out that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “has warned that the economy is not growing fast enough to sustain recent hiring gains,” with many analysts “scaling back their forecasts for corporate profits in the January-March quarter because of weaker growth.”

Time magazine points out that, after three years, the Obama economy “is not accelerating out of the slow start to its recovery–change in real GDP is what it was in late 2009, early 2010.

Time continues, “The unemployment rate (now 8.2%) fell for all the wrong reasons in March. The labor force is contracting as people give up looking for work, meaning that the rate drop isn’t really good news. It also means that if the jobs market picks up again, the rate may rise. Obama boosters patting themselves on the back for getting near the mentally significant 8% unemployment figure shouldn’t get too excited.”

For his part, Kreuger ignores the shrinking labor force in today's statement, pretending the unemployment rate down because of jobs growth rather than because people stopped looking for work.

After saying in both February and March that “the trend in job market indicators over recent months is an encouraging sign,” Kreuger took a different tack today, stating that “it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.”

You can't blame Kreuger and the Obama administration for looking for anything in the employment data to spin as a positive. It's too late for them to change course now, before the election, and to admit their policies aren't leading to a robust economy would be to welcome defeat in November.

Meanwhile, NPR – a reliable ally of the Obama administration and liberals generally – reports that many long-term unemployed are facing an end to their federal unemployment checks because the official data shows the economy is improving.

"[T]he fact that the numbers are trending down means that people who have been unemployed for an extended period ... are going to have a harder time collecting benefits," says NPR. "Under a law enacted last month, Congress is ratcheting down the length of time that the unemployed can receive cash assistance. As a result, more than 135,000 workers in 15 states stand to see their unemployment checks run out in April alone, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group."

With Election Day less than seven months away now, the brutal truth is that more than 5 million Americans who wanted jobs couldn't find them and stopped looking. And, the thing is, they don't need the media to tell them what the unemployment rate is. In their world, it is 100 percent - with no sign of improvement on the horizon.

If they show up at the polls, chances are Obama will soon be unemployed, too.

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