There are faint glimmers of good news in the latest unemployment figures.
First, they were better than expected, and beating expectations is important to the financial markets. Instead of the 60,000 predicted, the economy added 151,000 jobs.
Second, the private sector added 159,000 jobs, more than enough to make up for the 8,000 government jobs lost in October. This was the 10th straight month that private employers added jobs.
Third, revised figures show that the August and September job losses were 110,000 fewer than first thought.
The upshot is that the threat of a double-dip recession has passed and that the economy has a little momentum going for it headed into the vital holiday shopping season.
The unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.6 percent and is likely to stay there, and even rise, as an improving economy draws more people back to the work force. And there's plenty to draw from. There are 14.8 million people out of work. Add in those who got so discouraged they quit looking for work and the underemployed, part-timers who want full-time work, and we're looking at a pool of 27 million people.
House Republican leader John Boehner's solution to the unemployment problem is tax cuts and cuts in government spending. But tax cuts presume an income, and there are plenty of workers already without an income — or will soon be without one.
Congress has extended and extended again the duration of unemployment benefits from the normal 26 weeks to 99 weeks. Those extended benefits expire at the end of this month. There are 1.47 million Americans who have been out of work longer than 99 weeks, the "99ers" who have exhausted their benefits. Another 5 million are poised to join them.
Extending those benefits — and there was significant opposition the last time Congress did — would, of course, entail more government spending. With no jobs and no jobless benefits, the best hope for the long-term unemployed is an economic recovery, and these figures show that the recovery is likely to be anything but swift.
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