In our opinion: Modest improvement in unemployment rate doesn't tell entire story

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

People walk by employment recruiters at a recent jobs fair in the Pittsburgh suburb of Green Tree, Pa.

Associated Press

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The president continues to tout this month's unexpected drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent as evidence that the country is on the rebound, and he therefore deserves a second a term. Meanwhile, conservatives conspiratorially insist that the jobless number has somehow been tampered with in order to make the president look good.

Lost in amid the political squabble is the hard reality that this latest jobs report is grim news for anyone looking for a light at the end of a very long economic tunnel.

Consider that the new adjustments from previous months show the rate of job growth is falling, not increasing. The Labor Department now says the nation added 186,000 jobs in July, 142,000 jobs in August and just 114,000 jobs last month. That's not an encouraging trend.

Americans have yet to see any signs that new jobs are being created at a rate that is anywhere near robust enough to keep up with population growth, let alone strong enough to start replacing all of the jobs lost these past four years. And now, as the European Union officially forecasts a recession overseas, the United States continues to barrel headlong over the so-called "fiscal cliff" with deep budget cuts and huge tax increases set to kick in on Jan. 1. Experts are nearly unanimous in their agreement that such a shock to the nation's economic system will lead to a double-dip recession, perhaps one even more devastating than the one from which the nation still is struggling to recover.

Indeed, the figure that is particularly depressing is the U-6 underemployment rate, which takes into account people working part time when they want to be working full time, as well as people who are only marginally attached to the workforce and have essentially given up looking. The U-6 rate remained unchanged from the previous month at a staggering rate of 14.7 percent, and it hasn't dropped below 14 percent since President Barack Obama took office.

These figures paint a bleak picture of an economy that could be headed toward recession. While any improvement is welcome, this month's very modest improvement in a rate that doesn't tell the entire story is not particularly comforting to the millions of families still struggling with unemployment, underemployment and economic uncertainty.

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