Supposedly yesterday's big news was the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the report had little that was new. Job growth is, at best, sluggish. The BLS estimates that employment grew by less than 100,000 in August, and growth reported in previous months was recalculated downward.
True, the total unemployment figure fell from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent. But that decrease is due largely to a decrease in the number of folks seeking work, a criterion necessary to be officially classified as "unemployed."
In other words, the official unemployment rate is down not because folks have signed on for work, but because retirement and discouragement are sidelining would-be workers. That means more reliance on underfunded private and public pension systems with less contribution to their funding.
But again, this is not news, just the painful long-term trend of a pallid recovery.
Other non-news in yesterday's report: It pays to get an education. Unemployment for college grads is down to 4.1 percent, while the rate for high school dropouts stays stubbornly high at 12 percent. In today's economy, training and skill count.
Many are commenting on how the jobs report might affect this year's presidential election. This one report, however, probably won't change much politically because nothing in the report shows any change in our nation's unemployment trajectory.
President Barack Obama may try to hype the drop in the unemployment rate, but his challenger Mitt Romney will undoubtedly focus on the anemic jobs growth. Neither candidate, however, used their respective conventions to give the public more than platitudes about how they will address this ongoing employment debacle. Consequently, this report can serve as little more than a blunt instrument for the respective campaigns.
However, as these lackluster employment reports roll out, month after month, their cumulative effect should be a rallying cry for action.
Exactly one year ago today, reacting to our chronic high unemployment, the president called together a joint session of Congress to propose the American Jobs Act, a collection of economic stimulative measures intended to create jobs. Much of what he proposed was more cost than benefit. But some of his proposals enjoyed bipartisan support. Nevertheless, election year intransigence and posturing on both sides has left us with no action, even in spite of substantive agreement. Clearly, there is no plan to act on any meaningful legislation until long after November's election.
The dignity, self-respect and health of millions of families hang in the balance. The idea that we can afford to put off decisive action on the fiscal and regulatory policies that hinder economic growth until a new administration is sworn in shows, at best, callous disregard for America's would-be workers and their families. But, as we have noted and despite today's headlines, there's just not that much new with regard to our unemployment mess, just more of the same.
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